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Monday, October 9, 2017

More Screams for Halloween









Dark Screams Volume Eight (Hydra, October 31, 2017), edited by Brian James Freeman and Richard Chizmar comes out just in time for Halloween. Cemetery Dance’s editors include five original tales and one reprint from CD in 2015. “Walpuski’s Typewriter” by Frank Darabont is the reprint.





“The Boy” by Bentley Little stinks. Not the story. The boy stinks. Christine, new to the suburb where the boy lives, smells him walk past each day on his way to school. How can anyone smell so bad?





“Tumor” by Benjamin Percy is filled with rich imagery.





“Twisted and Gnarled” by Billie Sue Mosiman is superbly written, a tale of psychological suspense with supernatural elements.





“The Palaver” by Kealan Patrick Burke is a bit too hairy for my tastes. “India Blue” by Glen Hirschberg is about the start and end of Professional Cricket in America.





My favorite story is “The Boy”. It really got me thinking.




Friday, October 6, 2017









Halloween Carnival Volume Four (Hydra, October, 2017) edited by Brian James Freeman includes four new stories and one reprint. Kealan Patrick Burke’s “The Mannequin Challenge” is a nasty little tale that’ll stab you in the eyeballs. “Across the Tracks” by Ray Garton is truly frightening, and it’s so well-written it deserves a Stoker nomination. Three middle-school boys are bullied by Ed Mortimer and his minions on Halloween, and you expect something really bad will happen. But what does happen, is beyond your expectations. “The Halloween Tree” by Bev Vincent has some intense moments each time the boys pass the tree and the Corrigan house. “Pumpkin Eater” by C. A. Suleiman is about pies and pumpkins and a marriage made in hell. “When the Leaves Fall” by Paul Melniczek is the longest story in the book, and one of the best. More than just a tale of a boy and his dog, it’s downright creepy. Halloween Carnival Volume Four is definitely worth a read.

Sunday, September 3, 2017

The Road to Paradise: A New View of Family Values















The Road to Paradise by Max Allan Collins (Brash Books, November 2017) is the second sequel to The Road to Perdition, which was an award-winning graphic novel and a superb motion picture starring Tom Hanks. Collins is an MWA Grand Master and a multiple Shamus-award winning author.


When I began reading The Road to Paradise, I only knew that the author had co-authored mysteries with Mickey Spillane and had written the Dick Tracy daily and Sunday comics for the Chicago Tribune. I also knew he had written the Ms. Tree comic books and was a fellow member of MWA Midwest. I hadn’t yet read The Road to Perdition nor seen the film.


I lived I Oak Park, Illinois, in the mid-1970s when a mob hit man murdered crime-boss Sam Giancana in his Fillmore Street home, less than six blocks from me, so I was instantly intrigued by this novel’s opening scene where the Outfit similarly slays Mad Sam DeStefano. Not only did I regularly hang out at the Big Top restaurant in Berwyn (at the corner where the cities of Cicero, Chicago, Oak Park, and Berwyn intersect) with lots of people associated with Mad Sam, but I also met two of Momo Giancana’s three daughters when I managed O’Hare convention hotels. Unfortunately, Collins momentarily lost me when we left that familiar road to focus on Michael Satariano, formerly Michael O‘Sullivan, at the Cal-Neva in Tahoe. If I had read the previous Road books (both Perdition and Purgatory) before reading The Road to Paradise, I wouldn’t have confused Connor Looney with Mooney Giancana. Nevertheless, Collins kept me reading until I could piece together who was who and who did what to whom and where and when and why.

The Looneys were Irish bootleggers in Moline in the 1920s. Michael O’Sullivan, Sr., Michael Satariano’s father, went to work for them as their “Angel of Death” enforcer after serving during WWI. He considered himself still a soldier. Soldiers killed enemies. It was easy for him to emerge from one war to fight in another.


When Connor Looney murdered his wife and youngest son, Michael Senior declared war on the Looneys and the Chicago mob. He took his surviving boy along to drive the getaway car while he robbed banks and sought revenge for the death of his wife and his other son.


After Michael Senior’s death in Perdition, Kansas, Michael is adopted by the Satarianos. He grows up in DeKalb, Illinois, and falls in love with Patsy Ann O’Hara. He enlists in the Army and is a sniper on Bataan when war is declared, He’s already a trained killer, and he kills more than fifty enemy Japs. He becomes the first medal of honor recipient of the second world war when he loses an eye saving the lives of his captain and General Wainwright. He’s sent home to make speeches and act like a hero during War Bond tours.


If you want the whole story, read The Road to Perdition and The Road to Purgatory before you read The Road to Paradise. I bought all three books but read them in reverse order, beginning with Paradise. They do work as stand-alones, if you pay attention to the back-fill and can keep it straight. I love all three novels so much I’m now attempting to get my hands on everything Max Allan Collins has written.


It’s easy for me to identify with Michael because I once lived in Chicago and Oak Park and Berwyn and Cicero. I received my masters in educational psychology from Northern Illinois University in DeKalb, and still live nearby. I was a hotel and resort manager in Chicago and Atlanta and Florida during the seventies, and I personally encountered some of the real-life mob figures featured in these novels.


And, like Michael Senior, I believe in revenge, an eye for an eye. I do not believe in turning the other cheek.


Is the son of the Angel of Death a saint or a sinner? Can even a merciful God forgive him for killing so many?


I highly recommend The Road to Paradise to anyone who loves a good mystery, a great story, or who simply wants to learn more about history. It’s a wonderful tale of revenge, redemption, and family (no pun intended) values.

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Paul Dale Anderson Writer: The Fae don’t play nice. October Daye should kno...

Paul Dale Anderson Writer:

The Fae don’t play nice. October Daye should kno...
: The Fae don’t play nice. October Daye should know that by now, being half-human and half Faerie. But where her mother’s concerned, To...


The Fae don’t play nice. October Daye should know that by now, being half-human and half Faerie. But where her mother’s concerned, Toby can’t think logically. In The Brightest Fell (DAW, September 7, 2017), Book 11 of the October Daye series, Hugo-Award-Winning Author Seanan McGuire sends October in search of a long-lost half-sister. When mother politely asks Toby to put her PI skills to work to find August, she refuses.

Amandine, one of the Full-Blood Fae and Daoine Sidhe, isn’t used to being refused and won’t take no for an answer. To force her younger daughter to obey, she imprisons Toby’s fiance, Tybalt, plus another of Toby’s friends and takes them both hostage. Many of the characters from previous novels in this series, both friends and former enemies (including Simon Torquill from Rosemary and Rue), aid October’s quest into deep faerie to retrieve sister August.

Readers of Jim Butcher’s The Dresden Files will love McGuire’s Daye tales as much as, if not more than, Dresden, because Harry is currently missing, burnt out, or presumed dead while Daye becomes more and more immortal—and memorable—with every new novel.

Both urban fantasies have first-person narratives riddled with self-deprecating humor as well as suspense. Both heroes are PIs (private paranormal investigators). Harry’s entry to Faerie is Chicago; Toby’s is San Francisco. Both have half-siblings as antagonists who become occasional allies. Both frequent a restaurant where preternatural folk gather: Harry’s is a local bar; Toby’s is Borderlands Cafe and Bookstore. But the two heroes are actually as different as Knight and Daye, because Dresden’s story is told from a male viewpoint while Daye’s is decidedly feminine.

Ever since Spenser reinvented the sword and sorcery genre with the publication of the Faerie Queene in 1590, English-language writers have been embellishing on his themes and characters. Although the fairy tales most Americans are familiar with originated as Irish, Scottish, Welsh, or Germanic folk tales as retold by Victorian writers like J. M. Barrie, Spenser’s heroes are not entirely forgotten. The heroic quest of Britomart—the heroine’s journey—accompanied by her faithful squire, becomes Toby’s journey-quest on faerie’s Babylon Road (much like Dorothy and her companions following the yellow brick road into the Land of Oz to find a wizard), accompanied by Simon and Quentin.

What is it that attracts us to Faerie Tales? Is it a memory, embedded deep within human DNA, inside our very blood, of a long-ago time when magic was real and women ruled the world? Magic is a Ma word, you realize, because the first true practitioners were women. Magic flows from the Mother to her children through her blood, her breast-milk, and her songs. Men have no magic of their own except what they inherit from their mothers.

Magic lives in the blood. True magic is blood magic, and true enchantment is lyrical.

Magic is never free. There’s always a painful fee to be paid when employing magic to acquire what you desire. In fact, the Fae are sometimes called The Fee. They are sometimes also known as The Fates or as The Furies, but that’s another story.

Fae Magic always smells like it’s composed of a mixture of the alchemical essence of a living plant combined with something else, like rosemary and rue, and it also has a shape one can touch, a thread to ravel or unravel.

Toby’s unique gift, inherited from her mother, is her ability to smell or taste magic. She can differentiate odors like artists differentiate shapes and colors. She can track scents like a bloodhound or a Cu Sidhe (a Faerie dog). She can also retrieve memories from the blood of others, even the dead.

The October Daye novels may seem confusing unless you understand the familial connections of characters. McGuire includes a helpful prologue in this novel to aid you. Faerie is not unlike medieval Europe where all the royals are related by blood and bastards of kings and queens abound. Bloodlines become important for more reasons than one. There are Firstbloods and Purebloods and mixed bloods (part fae and part human) known as Changelings. October is a Changeling (daughter of Amandine and a human), while August is a Pureblood (daughter of Amandine and Simon Torquill). Descendancy shouldn’t matter in modern-day America, but it sure did in England, Scotland, Wales, and Ireland during the late Elizabethan period (and in George R.R. Martin’s Westeros of Game of Thrones fame). McGuire boldly explores the meaning of family—blood families, marital families and extended families of choice—in her Daye  novels.

The Brightest Fell is very highly recommended, as is the entire October Daye series.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Great Mystery, Superb Suspense





The Other Girl by Erica Spindler (St. Martin’s Press, August 22, 2017) is a great mystery story, expertly crafted.

Miranda “Randi” Rader and Jake Billings, police detectives in rural Louisiana, investigate the murder and mutilation of a college professor. Before Miranda became a cop, she’d been a victim herself of kidnapping and attempted sexual assault. Evidence found at the murder scene leads her to believe the professor, who is also the college president’s son, was the man who abducted her and another girl fourteen years ago.

Spindler builds suspense by piling up more and more evidence that points fingers at the wrong people, including Randi. Is someone trying to frame her for murder? Who? Why?
No one seems to believe Randi (Miranda), except her partner Jake and her best-friend Summer. She’s removed from the case and suspended from the department. She has to hire an attorney because she’s about to be arrested for murder.

Things go from bad to worse. Miranda learns Summer has an inoperable brain tumor and is going to die. Randi’s brother informs her their estranged mother is in the hospital recovering from a heart attack.

And when she and Jake fall in love, it only complicates things even more.

There’s an old saying among suspense writers that when your protagonist is hip-deep in alligators, you should throw a back-biting poisonous snake into the mix to add excitement. Spindler does that in The Other Girl, only she throws in more than one. Miranda doesn’t know (nor does the reader) she’s about to be bit in the butt until the snake strikes.

Great mystery, superb suspense. The Other Girl is a page-turner you won’t be able to put down until the very end.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

A Perfect Obsession by Heather Graham




A Perfect Obsession by Heather Graham (Mira, April 2017) is full of surprises. The first surprise is discovery of supermodel Jeanette Gilbert’s body in a crypt below an old church. The second surprise is Kieran Finnegan’s twin brother Kevin is the “Mystery Man” Jeanette’s been secretly dating. The third is FBI special agent, and Kieran’s boyfriend, Craig Frasier being assigned to the case.

And the surprises just keep on coming as one beautiful corpse after another gets unearthed, proving a serial killer is loose beneath the crowded streets of New York City.

Graham loves to include history and geography lessons in each of her novels, blending fact with fiction whenever she can. But this is first and foremost a murder mystery Kieran and Craig must solve before Kieran becomes a victim herself.

It’s no surprise that A Perfect Obsession is part of a series. Graham has fully developed the Finnegan family, the bar they own, and the regulars who frequent Finnegan’s Irish Pub into something special. Kieran’s day job as a forensic psychologist and her night job as a bar maid, Craig’s job as an FBI agent, Kevin’s roles on Broadway and film, and Danny’s tour guide business are icings on the cake (or, in this case, suds on the Guinness). The pub and the city of New York overshadow everything that happens.

An exciting and fun read by a mistress of suspense.

Friday, August 4, 2017

Zippered Flesh 3






Zippered Flesh 3: Yet More Tales of Body Enhancements Gone Bad, edited by Weldon Burge (Smart Rhino Publications, October, 2017), contains nineteen stories, more than half of which are new. Reprints are by Billie Sue Mosiman, William F. Nolan, Jason V. Brock, Jack Ketchum, Graham Masterton, Sandra R. Campbell, and James Dorr.




The book leads with Mosiman’s “Horns, Teeth, and Knobs”, a viciously twisted tale with a shocking ending. Billie Sue is a wonderful writer, and this story showcases her skills. It’ll make you think twice about who your real friends are.




“Upgraded” by Shaun Meeks is about teenaged angst over acquiring the latest and greatest electronic gadget. “Going Green” by Christine Morgan has a similar theme, but it’s as different as night from day, the language rich and verdant, the futuristic gizmos even farther outside the box. “Worm” by Jeff Menapace leaves one feeling hungry. “Reduced to Tears” by Adrian Ludens turns body mutilation into a religious observance, proving less is more.

“A New Man” by William F. Nolan tells what bad things might happen if there’s a high-tech software glitch. “Transposition” by Jason V. Brock tells of a face-transplant gone terribly wrong. “The Rose” by Jack Ketchum is about a rose tattoo come to life. “Consume” by Daniel I. Russell is another “less is more” story with scary religious overtones of a supernatural nature.




“All Will Turn to Gray” by Jezzy Wolfe is a remarkable story, textured in rich hues and overtones unlike anything you’ve seen before. “Invisible” by E. A. Black is a meaty tale of repressed anger. “And the Sky was Full of Angels” by L. L. Soares is about coming home from war a changed man. “Shopping Spree” by Meghan Arcuri imagines Photoshopping people. “Closer” by Charles Colyott is a wonderfully poignant and romantic story you really should read. It’s the perfect emotional segue to “Dog Days” by Graham Masterton, another real tear-jerker.




“Switch” by Jasper Bark is extreme horror, very graphic, that may offend some readers. But Krasinski is a real asshole in more ways than one, and he deserves whatever bad juju or bad dodo comes his way. “Hypochondria” by Michael Zeigler tenderly tells of the dangers of medical misdiagnosis and afflictions of the heart. “Gehenna Division, Case #609” by Sandra R. Campbell furnishes a guided tour though Hell. And “Golden Age” by James Dorr celebrates the pioneering tradition that connects past generations with future generations.




My three favorite stories are: “All Will Turn to Gray” by Wolfe, “Horns, Teeth, and Knobs” by Mosiman, and “Shopping Spree” by Arcuri. “Dog Days” by Masterton is also exceptional, and one of the most satisfying stories I’ve read this year. “Going Green” by Morgan is so original, timely, and well-written it deserves special mention (and maybe a Stoker). Kudos to Burge for putting together another fine anthology of cutting-edge fiction.



 


Tuesday, August 1, 2017

JackHammer on sale now







Today, August 1, 2017, is the official release date of JackHammer for Kindle, Nook, and e-book. The trade paperback will appear this fall.


JackHammer is filled with depictions of graphic violence and bodily mutilation. It’s a taut thriller, a realistic police procedural, and a gruesome psychological horror novel all-in-one. I want readers to experience fear. I want to engage your fight, flight, or freeze response and make you shake in your shoes.


But JackHammer is also a love story. And love can conquer fear.


Connie Kelly and Andy Sinnott are two of my favorite characters because they’re madly in love with each other. Both appear in Meat Cleaver and SledgeHammer, and Andy is a major character in Pickaxe and Icepick. Troy and Sally Nolan are back, as are Linda Davis, Rat, and Harvey “George” Fredriks. Their ongoing story arcs constitute the bulk of the Instruments of Death series, of which JackHammer is Book Nine.


Tom Wesley and Danny Norman from Daddy’s Home also play important parts in JackHammer. They, as well as Illinois State Police Lieutenant Dave Mullins, will return in Tire Iron and other novels as the series progresses.


Next up in the series is Box Cutter, followed by Nail Gun.


Once upon a time, I worked for the US Army Construction Engineers, both as a reserve officer and as a DA Civil Service employee. I was a supply man at headquarters S-4 and G-4 shops. I supervised the supply and maintenance of all types of construction equipment. I planned and accounted for the men, money, and materiel allocated in TOEs and TAs. I budgeted for and approved requisitions, arranged transportation of heavy equipment, and visited job sites around the country. I personally transported demolitions and acted as an armed escort on convoys. That was long time ago, but I still have fond memories of seeing sunrises at job sites.


I live in the State of Illinois where politicians are notoriously corrupt. I went to school with, or worked day jobs with, close relatives of prominent organized crime figures. My own neighborhood is currently riddled with daily crime and violence, and I see and hear red and blue flashing lights and sirens throughout the night. Many of my friends and neighbors are thinking of leaving the state, but I’m sticking around. What better environment for a crime writer to have?


You may notice I’ve taken some artistic liberties with campaign finance reporting requirements. These laws have become so complicated not even the politicians know what’s currently required.
JackHammer is a work of fiction, and I am, first and foremost, a fiction writer. None of the events depicted in this novel happened, to the best of my knowledge.


But beware! They could.


As I explained at F. Paul Wilson’s panel on writing horror during Thrillerfest2017, I write cautionary tales that teach you how to survive. Demented serial killers and mass murderers are a reality. Do you know what you would do if you met one? What makes you vulnerable? How would you react if you were choked, bound and gagged, and your body was about to be violated or mutilated? How would you escape? How would you flee? How would you fight?


These are the very real situations confronting characters in JackHammer. How would you react differently if your loved ones were threatened instead of, or as well as, you?


My novels are survival manuals as well as thrillers.


JackHammer is on sale now at https://www.amazon.com/JackHammer-Instruments-Death-Book-9-ebook/dp/B074FDQZB4/ or https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/jackhammer-paul-dale-anderson/ or Kobo or i-Books.


Be a victor, not a victim.

Monday, July 31, 2017

One hell of a weird story! Surreal and spellbinding. Johnny Worthen’s What Immortal Hand is the darkest tale I’ve read in a long time.




Johnny Worthen’s What Immortal Hand (Omnium Gatherum, October 2017) is one hell of a weird story. It’s the darkest horror I’ve read in a long time.
Michael Oswald stares into the Abyss. He’s already lost his wife, his home, his kids, and now he’s about to lose his job. He feels himself on a slippery slope sliding into nothingness. His self-destruction is nearly complete. He feels as if he has no past, no future. It’s as if time itself plays tricks on him. He loses hours, days, weeks, maybe even years.

He can’t remember his early childhood the way other people can. He can’t even remember half of what happened yesterday. To the world, Michael Oswald is a loser because he values none of the trappings of civilized society. Michael has always been different than others. He believes it’s because he was raised within the foster care system, a ward of the state. He’s had many names, a different last name each time he entered a new foster home, and he has no idea at all who he truly is, who his real parents are, or who raised him during those influential years from three to seven.

Who is he? Where is he? When is he?
What is he?

All his life, it seems, Michael has been aware that there is a caste system—a natural order—at work in the world, even in democratic America. There’s always been haves and have-nots. There’s always been thugs who prey on Travelers. Some people deserve to die and need to be killed as a public service. But, in the end, all living things must die.

If God gives you lemons, get another god. Everyone is born of a Mother, isn’t he or she? And isn’t everyone reborn again and again?

Heh heh.

One hell of a weird story! Surreal and spellbinding. Johnny Worthen’s What Immortal Hand is the darkest tale I’ve read in a long time.
 


Monday, June 19, 2017

4MK is Gruesome





The four wise monkeys of ancient oriental myth — hear no evil, see no evil, say no evil, and do no evil — give the killer in The Fourth Monkey by J. D. Barker (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, June 28, 2017) his name. The 4MK abducts women and sends an ear to the next of kin. Two days later, the victim’s extracted eyeballs arrive in the mail. Then the tongue. Two days after that, 4MK positions the victim’s mutilated body where easily discovered.


Hear no evil, see no evil, say no evil, do no evil. Those are the rules.


Detective Sam Porter, on bereavement leave following his wife’s tragic murder by a convenience store robber, receives a phone call from his partner. The Four Monkeys Killer was accidentally killed by a Chicago bus on his way to mail an ear of his latest victim to Arthur Talbot, one of the richest men in the city.


Sam’s chased the 4MK for five years. Seven dead girls he couldn’t save. Now it appears Talbot’s illegitimate daughter Emory will be 4MK’s next victim. The clock’s ticking as Sam assembles his task force and tries to find Emory before she dies of dehydration.


The killer’s diary found on the man hit by the bus tells what it’s like to be raised in a family of psychopaths. Barker effectively rotates POV among Porter, Emory, task force members, and the diary. The burning questions become: Is the diary real? Is the dead man the 4MK? Will Emory survive? What did Talbot do to warrant punishment by 4MK? Who killed Heather, Sam’s wife, and what will happen to him?


Set in metropolitan Chicago, the action delves into underground tunnels once used by bootleggers where thousands of rats thrive and Emory may be sequestered. Will she be eaten by rats, die of hydration, or have her eyes and tongue plucked out before 4MK is through with her?


Suspense builds as time runs out. Sam, who was neither able to protect his wife nor the seven previous 4MK victims, is desperate to reach Emory before she perishes.


The Fourth Monkey is as much a great horror novel as a mystery or thriller. Very highly recommended for readers with strong stomachs, insatiable curiosities, and time on their hands because they won’t be able to stop until the very end.

Monday, June 12, 2017

A great collection of thriller tales





What a wonderful way to discover series characters and their authors. MatchUp, edited by Lee Child (Simon and Schuster, June 13, 2017). is the International Thriller Writer’s sequel to the best-selling FaceOff. Both books team-up award-winning thriller writers and their series characters to solve life-and-death mysteries or bring killers to justice. If you’ve never met these characters before, here’s your chance.


And who better to introduce you to each of them than Lee Child, Mr. Jack Reacher himself.


Contributors include: Lee Coburn and Joe Pickett in “Honor & …” by Sandra Brown and C.J. Box; Tony Hill and Roy Grace in “Footloose” by Val McDermid and Peter James; Temperance Brennan and Jack Reacher in “Faking a Murderer” by Kathy Reichs and Lee Child; Jamie Fraser and Cotton Malone in “Past Prologue” by Diana Gabaldon and Steve Berry; Liz Sansborough and Rambo in “Rambo on Their Minds” by Gayle Lynds and David Morrell; Jeffrey Tolliver and Joe Pritchard in “Short Story” by Karin Slaughter and Michael Koryta; Harper Connelly and Ty Hauck in “Dig Here” by Charlaine Harris and Andrew Gross; Regan Pescoli and Lucas Davenport in “Deserves to be Dead” by Lisa Jackson and John Sandford; Lucan Thorne and Lilliane Williams in “Midnight Flame” by Lara Adrian and Christopher Rice; Bennie Rosato and John Corey in “Getaway” by Lisa Scottoline and Nelson DeMille; and Ali Reynolds and Bravo Shaw in “Taking the Veil” by J.A. Jance and Eric Van Lustbader.


“Footloose”, although British, is my favorite. It’s filled with tons of wonderful puns, a foot-fetisher’s delight. Should DST Roy Grace, DCI Carol Jordan, and Dr. Tony Hill search for “an evil Elvis impersonator with homicidal tendencies”? Or a podophilic serial killer? Or should they look for both? Ten toes up for this one.


Liz Sansborough and Rambo in “Rambo on Their Minds” by Gayle Lynds and David Morrell is, in my humble opinion, the best-written tale in this collection, a taut thriller with a ticking time-bomb and an impossible task.


But all of the other stories are truly superb and well worth the read.


Several feature their authors’ usual supporting characters (i.e., John Sandford’s Johnson Johnson, Gayle Lynds’ Simon Childs, Lara Adrian’s Gabrielle, Michael Koryta’s Lincoln Perry, J. A. Jance’s Leeland Brooks). If you want a feel for what you’ll get in a Virgil Flowers novel, read “Deserves to be Dead”.


“Past Prologue” by Gabaldon and Berry is a fascinating time-travel story. “Dig Here” and “Midnight Flame” both have supernatural elements. “Short Story” piles complication atop complication. “Faking a Murderer” marries Jack Reacher’s military past with Temperance Brennan’s forensic acumen. “Honor &…” whacks-a-mole. And “Getaway” has a lovable dog that steals the show.


A great collection with new stories from some of the best writers in the business.

Monday, June 5, 2017

Paul Dale Anderson Writer: Supernatural Noir

Paul Dale Anderson Writer: Supernatural Noir: John Urbancik’s style is spellbinding. He’s a consummate craftsman. His writing seems like a cross between Raymond Chandler and Stephen ...

Supernatural Noir





John Urbancik’s style is spellbinding. He’s a consummate craftsman. His writing seems like a cross between Raymond Chandler and Stephen King, with maybe a little Richard Thomas thrown in. Maybe some Lewis Carroll, too, to make it even more surreal.



The Corpse and the Girl from Miami (Dark Fluidity, 2017) is a mystery within a mystery. It’s noir and a supernatural thriller all in one.



And, despite everything else, it’s also a love story.



It’s set in Boston, MA, not in Miami. There are some displaced Floridians (Ofelia, Mr. Maker, Armando Luis Salazar) prowling the New England darkness one unusually stormy night, but they have no special love for Bean Town. Neither does The Corpse.



Imagine waking up in a cemetery with three bullet holes in your chest and no pulse. You have no remembrance of who shot you or why. You can’t even remember your name.



Piecing together his identity and solving the mystery of his murder turns into a herculean task for the dead man. There’s another walking dead man and a burgeoning cast of characters, some of whom may be aligned with powerful supernatural forces, to complicate the plot.



No one tells the truth. Ferreting out who killed whom, who is working for whom, and who’s a good person and who’s a bad person keeps the reader turning pages.



If you like a good mystery in an urban fantasy with supernatural elements, you’ll love The Corpse and the Girl from Miami.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

WisCon 2017









I signed books at WisCon’s SignOut in the second floor ballroom of the Concourse Hotel in Madison, WI on Memorial Day, May 29, 2017, from Noon until 1:30 PM. I do so every year, although few people at WisCon ask for my autograph (I do, always, have at least one; and one is all I need).

I attend WisCon as a learning experience. Not only do I learn about authors and books I would not hear about otherwise, rubbing shoulders with diverse writers and readers takes me out of my normally complacent comfort zone, therefore allowing me to grow both as a person and as a writer and reader of science fiction and fantasy.



Each year I come away from WisCon filled with fury. I — a privileged white straight male - am seen there as the hated enemy, the quintessential dirty old man, the has-been, the exploiter of the marginalized and vulnerable downtrodden. I am, at WisCon, The Invisible Man, not H. G. Wells’ fictional character but James Ellison’s. And that makes me angry.



WisCon is filled with angry people of all ages, races, gender identities, political persuasions, and disabilities. People like me have always been in the minority at a gender-bending feminist celebration. It doesn’t matter if I support feminist ideals or love the works of Russ, Tiptree, Nisi Shawl, and Nora Jemisin. I am, nevertheless, an outsider at WisCon.



Outsiders, in my biased opinion, make the best writers. We’re able to observe, not necessarily more objectively but more intensely, events and relationships.



One of the cherished events I always look forward to at WisCon is the gathering of mid-career sf and fantasy authors who meet to share survival secrets. We have all been published by major NY houses sometime in the past, but we’ve been affected by changes in the book industry and changes in our own lives that have adversely affected our careers. At one time, we may have been the darlings of the book trade, winners of awards and inspirations for wannabe writers who have since replaced us on bestseller lists. We may or may not still look like our photos on book jackets or that decades ago appeared in Locus. Living up to our reputations has made writing more difficult for many of us. We often become our own worst critics. It’s nice to know I’m not alone in my self-doubt.



Maybe I’m not as much of an outsider as I think I am.



WisCon teaches me that we all fear being left out or left behind or simply ignored. We all want to matter, to be important, to make a difference.



That’s a good lesson for a privileged white straight male to remember.




Monday, May 22, 2017

Kathy Reichs' new series is a winner





Two Nights by Kathy Reichs (Bantam Books, July 2017) introduces Sunday Night, a traumatized ex-cop on a mission to find a missing girl and save her life.

Although Sunnie Night allegedly lives in Charleston, SC (actually on Goat Island, just offshore), the first half of the story takes place in Chicago. As a Chicago native, I followed Sunny around the city waiting for the author to make an obvious mistake. She didn’t, which means either she was familiar with Chicago from book signings or she did her research.

I love the brilliant images Reichs creates: “Across Lake Shore Drive, the city hummed with all the notes of a midnight symphony.” Made me wonder if she didn’t listen to Gorden Jenkins’ Manhattan Tower while writing this novel.

The action, however, doesn’t remain in Chicago. Sunnie follows the alleged kidnappers to LA, to Washington, DC, and then to Louisville, KY.

Sunnie has a nasty a scar over one eye. Some asshole stabbed her in the eye with a knife, and she had to shoot and kill him in self-defense. That’s why she was forced to leave the Charleston PD: they wanted to stick her on permanent desk duty after she’d killed an unarmed citizen (he had no gun and the knife didn’t seem to count) and she wanted back on the streets but they wouldn’t let her back with only one eye.

So she quit.

Sunnie has other scars, too, though the others aren’t quite so visible. Scars from the military. Scars from her own childhood.

Oh, and did I mention that she’s unusually tall for a woman?

The title refers to Sunnie and her twin brother Gus — Sunday and August Night. Gus is black and Sunnie can pass for white. Although twins, they look as different as day and night. Their mother was a white immigrant from Ireland and their father was an African-American preacherman. There are other meanings to the title, but you’ll need to read the novel to learn what they might be.

Sometimes the tension becomes so taut it’s almost painful, as if there’s literally a ticking timebomb that will explode any minute now. The author doubles the tension by running parallel mysteries that threaten to intersect: the current mystery Sunnie and Gus must unravel and the mystery of what happened to them as children.

Once I started reading, I couldn’t put the book down. Highly recommended for mystery and thriller lovers.

 

 

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Who Are the Hlloween Children?

The Halloween Children by Brian James Freeman and Norman Prentiss (Random House Hydra, June 2017) works by building suspense, by gradually increasing the sense of dread. Readers know from the very first page that something went terribly wrong Halloween night and lots of children either killed or were killed. Dread builds as you discover how really weird and totally dis-functional everyone in the entire Stillbrook apartment complex — especially the entire Naylor family — has become. You know all hell is about to break loose, and you can’t wait for it to happen. But, like waiting for Halloween or for Christmas, wait you must.

Good horror builds expectations. There are a lot of little boos that set the scene, but you know right from the get-go that the big fright comes on Halloween. Everything else is a warm-up or a red-herring.

“I think the environment in our apartment complex had everything to do with what happened,” Harris Naylor admits. “Not just our management policies and our neighbors, but maybe even the issues that had been swimming within our own family.”

Is the apartment complex haunted? Just when you think it is, a logical explanation pops up. But then something else weird happens, and the suspense builds until you’re sure the place is haunted by evil spirits.

Or maybe by crazy people: not just the children but adults, too.

Harris again hits the nail on the head: “If a place is going to be haunted, it’s more likely to be an apartment building, since there’s a high turnaround in tenants and folks from a variety of backgrounds will bring different quirks and neuroses and illnesses with them. Going with the odds, an apartment building simply has more opportunities for crazy, haunted people to live there.”

Or die there.

Heh heh.

So who are the Halloween Children really? Mattie and Amber? Ghosts? Evil spirits?

Read the novel and see with your own eyes.

Heh heh.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Great Characters, Thrilling Read

The Final Hour by Tom Wood (Berkley Books, August 2017) is the seventh novel in the author’s “Victor” series. Victor is a freelance paid assassin who claims he doesn’t care bout anything but the job. That’s a lie, of course. But he’s so religious about protecting his privacy, he refuses to reveal any of his personal weaknesses to his victims. Or even to his friends and allies.

And certainly never to his enemies, of whom there are many. This is brought home to the reader in book 6, The Darkest Day, when Victor meets a female assassin who’s been hired to kill him.

Book seven begins with Victor confessing to a priest that he has killed many men. Plus he may have killed a female assassin, but he gave her an unprecedented opportunity to save herself if she’s strong enough. He returns later and kills the priest. Not only had British Intelligence put out a contract on him, but he had heard Victor’s confession and therefore had to die.

Imagine Tom Wood pitching the Victor novels to an agent or publisher with this elevator speech: I can’t tell you all about my protagonist because then I would have to kill you. Better you learn about him a little at a time as he reveals himself through story and dialog.

Spoiler alert: the female assassin does survive, despite incredible odds, and she becomes stronger. She and Victor become allies of sorts. More than that I can’t tell you without fear Victor will have to kill me.

I can tell you The Final Hour is marvelous. There are more complications than anyone has the right to survive, but Victor and Raven are both professionals and they know how to improvise.

This novel was so well written that I had to buy the previous six novels in the series. I was hooked on the best new series character since Jack Reacher, and I think you will be, too.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Dean Koontz has a new heroine

Dean Koontz combines Richard Condon’s The Manchurian Candidate with Ira Levin’s The Stepford Wives to create his latest pulse-pounding suspense thriller The Silent Corner (Bantam Books, June 2017).

Jane Hawk’s husband commits suicide, but he isn’t the only one to die by his own hand. When Jane, a highly-trained FBI Special Agent, takes bereavement leave and investigates the sudden rash of unexplained deaths, she and her five-year-old son are threatened by mysterious strangers who know all about her. Jane’s only hope to save her son and herself is to go entirely off the grid — to disappear into the silent corner where no one can track her movements or whereabouts.

Because those hunting Jane and her son don’t play nice, Jane can’t either. She becomes a rogue agent, a cold-blooded killer, and a thief.

Like Lee Child’s Jack Reacher, Jane Hawk has skills that allow her to survive against impossible odds. She goes on the offensive and ruthlessly kills people who deserve killing. We cheer her on each time another bad guy bites the dust.

The Silent Corner is only the first of at least three Jane Hawk novels. The Whispering Room will be out next January.

Exciting, thrilling, suspenseful, and well-written, I recommend The Silent Corner to everyone who enjoys a good read.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

The Girl Who Lived reviewed by Kirkus Reviews



THE GIRL WHO LIVED
 
 
Megan's Story
 
 
Paul Dale Anderson

2AM Publications (306 pp.)

$14.95 paperback, $3.95 e-book

ISBN: 978-0-937491-19-5; January 5, 2017
 
BOOK REVIEW
 
 
 
After spending years in a mental institution, a woman has revenge on her mind in Anderson’s (Claw Hammer, 2016,



etc.) dark thriller.

Megan Williams was institutionalized five years ago after she killed one man and castrated three others who raped and

disfigured her. She earns her freedom by telling her psychiatrist that she knows right from wrong—just what the doctor

wants to hear. However, she still plans to murder the survivors of her last attempt at vengeance, which occurred after

she’d spent one year in a coma and another undergoing reconstructive surgery and physical therapy. Shortly after her

return to Twin Rivers, Illinois, cops find the body of a castrated man and suspect Megan of the crime. Newspaperman

Tim Goodman, however, connects the new murder to five of the dead man’s associates, who are all inexplicably missing.

With police watching her, Megan puts her retribution on the back burner. Meanwhile, she’s leery of her older sister

Susan’s new beau, Harry Berg. The mob-linked drug dealer hopes to launder money in Twin Rivers, and he’s also in the

process of meting out payback to those who’ve wronged him. Soon, the dead bodies are stacking up, and Megan is in

danger of arrest. Anderson rivetingly presents his protagonist from a first-person perspective, which clearly shows her

instability. As she reveals more details of her attack, it seems as if she’s continually reliving it, which gives the book’s

title a sad twist. As a result, readers will initially have sympathy for Megan, but it may subside as the story progresses; at

one point, Megan says that she tortured multiple men, all strangers who picked her up at bars, as practice for her

revenge; after butchering them, she says, she “showed them mercy and slit their throats to make certain they died.” Still,

the story’s intensity rises with each new murder victim, as each puts Megan or someone she knows in potential danger.

Anderson, meanwhile, does add glimmers of hope, as when he shows that Megan regrets at least one of her killings.

A relentlessly gloomy but memorable tale that explores questions of morality.
 
 
 
 
 





 

Thursday, January 19, 2017



Cataclysm by Tim Washburn (Pinnacle Books, November 2016) is the real deal. You know all hell is about to break loose in Yellowstone National Park when underground magma begins to shift in the caldera, causing earthquakes. Yellowstone is home to one of the world’s largest underground volcanoes. As the caldera rises, hydrothermal vents erupt as a precursor to a cataclysmic volcanic eruption that could threaten all life on earth.
What would you do if your own family were staying at the Old Faithful Inn in Yellowstone? Is there any way you can get them, and the tens of thousands of others in or near the park, out of harm’s way before the volcano erupts? Doctor Tucker Mayfield is the staff geologist monitoring on-site activity at Yellowstone. His entire family — brother Matt, sister-in-law Jessica, and a young niece and nephew — are vacationing in Yellowstone when the caldera threatens to erupt. The park is filled with families, and Tucker realizes evacuating them all before the volcano blows will be impossible.

First come the earthquakes, minor tremors that escalate into full-scale quakes. Then the geysers erratically spew boiling water high into the air, scalding hundreds of people and inundating acres of land. Volcanic ash from newly-opened fissures clogs automobile engines and brings down aircraft. If the volcano blows its lid, the entire Midwest and west coast of America could be buried beneath billions of tons of hot ash that will make the soil sterile for generations to come.

Without food, water, electricity, or transportation, how will the country survive?

President Drummond, the first female POTUS, declares a national emergency too late to save millions of lives. None of her learned advisers knew when or even if the volcano would erupt after being dormant for 640,000 years.

Author Washburn adds sexual tension to the mix as Rachel and April vie for Tucker’s attention. I wanted to shake or strangle several of the characters for being so selfish or dense that they put loved ones at risk. When pyroclastic flows containing boiling lava and hot acidic ash incinerate thousands of people, I wanted to shout “I told you so” to those who got their comeuppance.

But most of the dead are ordinary people who simply happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. The true horror is that this could actually happen to you or me tomorrow, and there’s nothing we can do to prevent it. The only thing we can do is be aware it could possibly happen and be prepared to run for our lives if it does.

Great story, competently told, with believable characters. Highly recommended.

Monday, January 2, 2017

Gunmetal Gray by Mark Greaney is Lots of Fun





Gunmetal Gray (a Gray Man Mystery-Thriller by Mark Greaney, Berkley, February 2017) returns Courtland Gentry to the side of the CIA instead of battling the agency to survive. But nothing is ever as it seems in a Gray Man novel, and Court is once again being played even as he plays others. At stake is the Chinese military’s cyberwarfare expert Fan Jiang, whose hacking knowledge the US wants. Unfortunately, so does the People’s Liberation Army, the Russian SVR, and members of the Chinese, Vietnamese, and Thai crime syndicates.


Court arrives in Hong Kong, ostensibly to find his old friend Sir Donald Fitzroy. That’s his cover. Fitzroy — held prisoner by Colonel Dai, the PRC officer tracking Fan Jiang — convinces Dai that Court will help Dai find Jiang if Dai will promise to free Fitzroy. Zoya “Koshka” Zakharova — a Russian Zaslon spy and trained assassin, code named “Sirena”, who is a language expert and good at disguises — may prove herself Court’s equal. Zoya is one step ahead of Court most of the way. She very early identifies Court as a CIA operative by the questions he asks, but she is unable to remember what his face looks like. She wonders, “Is he that good?”





Yes, he is. Court is called “The Gray Man” because he’s trained to blend into his surroundings so well that no one notices him unless he wants them to notice him.



Besides the Gray Man series, Mark Greaney writes the latest Tom Clancy novels. Rumor has it that Greaney once worked for clandestine US intelligence agencies, and the author’s knowledge of tradecraft is evident in all his novels.



This is an action thriller from the word “go.” The fast-paced action is unrelenting as Court takes on fifty triad strongmen, races through Saigon on a motor bike, slogs through rice paddies and jungles, and escapes from blood-thirsty river pirates. Court is always outnumbered, outgunned, and hip-deep in alligators, but he escapes every in extremis situation by the skin of his teeth. He may be battered and bruised, but he’s never down and out. He leaves behind more dead bodies than an atomic bomb blast.



A Gray Man novel is always lots of fun.