Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Guest Bloggers: Kelley Armstrong (author of Waking the Witch) and Marjorie M. Liu (author of A Wild Light) interview each other about dead mothers in their fiction

Today I have the honor of welcoming authors Kelley Armstrong and Marjorie M. Liu to the pages of Somebody Dies. Authors of over a dozen novels each, Armstrong's most recent is Waking the Witch, the latest in her "Women of the Otherworld" series, and Liu's newest is A Wild Light, the third of her "Hunter Kiss" books.

In this exclusive exchange, Kelley Armstrong and Marjorie M. Liu discuss maternal murder, appropriate since both of their main characters have mothers who were murdered. In Armstrong’s series, Savannah Levine has dealt with that over the course of the series, but it, of course, still looms large in her character. The same holds true for Maxine Hunter, the main character in Liu’s novels.

Here the authors discuss more about how having murdered mothers have affected the main characters of their novels. Both Waking the Witch and A Wild Light are on shelves (virtual and otherwise) today.

Kelley Armstrong: When we met Savannah in the second Otherworld book (Stolen) she was twelve and her mother, Eve, had just died. Eve had been targeted by a group kidnapping powerful supernaturals. When they came for her, Savannah was at home playing sick. She's always felt, then, that if she hadn't been skipping school, her mother wouldn't have needed to protect her and could have fought off her kidnappers or escaped.

When Eve is killed trying to escape the compound, Savannah knows she was her main reason for escaping (otherwise, Eve would have waited it out). That's a lot of guilt to put on a twelve-year-old.

I always knew that when I gave Savannah her own story, she'd need to deal with that guilt. In Waking the Witch, then, I mirrored her tragedy with a similar one. She goes to a small town to investigate three murders and immediately bumps into the preadolescent daughter of a victim, who is investigating her mother's death. That takes what would have been "just a case" for Savannah and turns it into something very personal.

Marjorie M. Liu: Oh, man. I could probably write a whole book about the archetype of orphans in fiction. In Maxine's case, her mother was her entire world, the only human person she could count on as both friend, protector, and confidant. So when she was murdered — in front of Maxine, no less — it totally ripped her heart out.

It set her adrift, made her a child of the world (for lack of a better term), belonging to no one and no place except herself. Without another person to ground her, she was outside the world, observing it from a distance that was influenced by both her upbringing and broken heart.

So that's her mental state when the series begins. Which isn't to say that Maxine is moping around being depressed. She's out fighting the bad guys, doing what needs to be done. Telling herself to be strong because others need her.

But she needs people, too, and I always knew that her story would be more about her emotional and spiritual journey than the physical war between herself and the demons. That wasn't a random decision on my part. As readers will discover in A Wild Light, Maxine is power. And it's the strength of her heart — the goodness of her heart — that will determine whether the people of Earth live or die or become enslaved.

Many thanks to both authors for agreeing to interview each other for Somebody Dies. Don't forget to pick up copies of Waking the Witch and A Wild Light from your favorite bookstore.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Deadman's Road by Joe R. Lansdale (Reverend Jedidiah Mercer collection)

This review originally appeared in somewhat different form on The Green Man Review. Copyright 2010. Reprinted with permission.

This collection from "champion mojo storyteller" Joe R. Lansdale gathers all his stories to date featuring his cult-favorite character Reverend Jedidiah Mercer, including the complete novel featuring his debut appearance, Dead in the West. This limited edition hardcover from Subterranean Press also offers evocative cover art from Timothy Truman and over 20 interior illustrations by Glenn Chadbourne.

Dead in the West was, to my knowledge, the first zombie Western. Lansdale wrote it back in 1986 as a tribute to the kind of entertainment he grew up enjoying, like EC Comics and cross-genre B-movies like Billy the Kid Versus Dracula and Jesse James Meets Frankenstein's Daughter (both real movies, I assure you).

Reverend Jedidiah Mercer is a man of God ... sort of. He hasn't exactly been following the straight and narrow path lately, spending a good portion of his collection on whiskey. But arriving in Mud Creek changes things a bit. After an unmistakable sign from above, in addition to some soul searching of his own, the Reverend decides to get back on the right track the next Saturday, when he'll be hosting a tent revival -- if he can resist the temptations coming his way.

But what's a man supposed to do when that's the week the dead start rising from their graves? Kick some undead hind-tail, that's what! Dead in the West takes no time in getting started: the first death occurs on the fourth page. From there on, we are treated to a thorough character study combined with a thrill ride. Why the dead chose this week to resurrect themselves, and what kind of unsavory temptations may get in the way of the Reverend's redemption, are just two of the questions answered in this exciting short novel with more than its fair share of cowboys smashing brains.

This cross of horror and Western does justice to both. And yet, Dead in the West remains purely a Lansdalean effort, with the same level of horror, humor, and down-home realism that has made him so popular among other writers as well as his rabid cult of fans (in particular, his ability to frighten and amuse simultaneously while delivering folksy homilies).

Also included in Deadman's Road are two stories, the titular "Deadman's Road" and "The Gentlemen's Hotel," previously collected in The Shadows, Kith & Kin), the previously uncollected "The Crawling Sky" (from the terrific anthology Son of Retro Pulp Tales), and a brand-new short, "The Dark Down There."

"Deadman's Road" has Reverend Mercer confronting a ghoul, and "The Gentleman's Hotel" involves werewolves. "The Crawling Sky" concerns a caged lunatic, a house with "haints," a magic book, and a man-eating Shmoo. "The Dark Down There" finds the Reverend meeting up with an obese woman named Flower and a mine that is loaded with silver and populated by kobolds (goblins). Jedidiah and Flower form a partnership since fear is unlikely to overtake both of them at the same time, and go up to the mine to see what they can see. The story ends on a high point, an unexpected result in these stories.

Mercer is a wholly original character with his own set of rules. He's not always nice, but he doesn't put up with nonsense (threaten to kill him and he'll not wait for you to follow through before acting in self-defense), and he often makes a lot of sense. These stories are some of the best work the weird Western genre has to offer, and it's good to see them all collected in a single volume with Deadman's Road.

Friday, July 9, 2010

I Can See You by Karen Rose (unabridged audio book read by Elisabeth S. Rodgers)

I tested the romantic suspense waters previously with Catherine Coulter's The Maze, so when author Karen Rose's novel crossed my path, I wasn't immediately repelled in the way I would once have been. And the plot of I Can See You , involving the dangers of online predation, was very intriguing -- so much so that I entered into this 16-disc behemoth with little trepidation, despite the fact that I had just finished one nearly as long, Andrew Davidson's terrific genre-blender The Gargoyle.

Eve Wilson returns in Rose's tenth thriller. Scarred by a horrific assault in Don't Tell, Eve was also featured in Nothing to Fear. Now she's pulling her life together, bartending and studying for her M.A. in Counseling, just in time to get involved in a murder mystery.

"The hooker had awakened ... thinking she was being strangled. Then, she really was. He did love it when fantasy met reality with such perfection."

A killer with 30 years of experience at his chosen craft -- and 30 years of trophies (the victims' shoes) and a well-used lime pit to show for it -- is targeting users of an online role-playing game called Shadowland: a Second Life-like game where users pretend to be other selves.

And the list of victims of this series of half a dozen murders staged to look like suicides, with their eyes glued open, closely matches the list of participants in Eve's master's thesis experiment: studying the effects of online role-playing on real-world self-esteem. Now she must break the confidentiality of her subjects to save their lives.

Enter Minneapolis/St. Paul's famed "Hat Squad" (they wear fedoras to "dress the part" as detectives), headed by Noah Webster, coming down off a local magazine's feature article that focused on Webster's partner, handsome lothario Phelps, due to his Paul Newman looks. (Webster looks more like a film noir thug.) Never mind the fact that Webster must continually take up Phelps's slack.

Like The Maze, the weakest portions of I Can See You are those devoted to the expected romance — though these lovebirds are so sickeningly adolescent and self-defeating in the beginning that it's a wonder they get out of bed in the morning, let alone know how to pursue a mature relationship. Eve's trauma and Webster's recovering alcoholism are such obvious parts of their personalities that it seems they could agree to simply meet each other on equally flawed terms.

But Rose keeps the suspense high in I Can See You — the bulk of the story takes place during a single week — and audiobook reader Elisabeth S. Rodgers enhances the text with her immersion into the characters. Most of Rose's books tie together in some fashion due to her repeating of characters, so readers who like this one will undoubtedly want to seek out more of the author's work.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Demons of the Night and Other Early Tales by Seabury Quinn, edited by Gene Christie (Black Dog Books)

Author Seabury Quinn is probably best known to modern readers for his series of short stories featuring occult detective Jules de Grandin, as well as for his marked influence on the works of fellow author Robert E. Howard. But Quinn's career spanned sixty years: from 1917, the year "The Law of Movies" (a nonfiction article included as an appendix to this collection) saw print, to 1977, when his novel Alien Flesh was published, with at least 150 other works in the intervening years.

Demons of the Night and Other Early Tales, edited and with an introduction and bibliography by Gene Christie and published by Black Dog Books, collects Quinn's earliest known fiction along with other rarities, including the aforementioned "Law of the Movies." It is a humorous and insightful look at the way legal matters are presented on film that is just as applicable today as it was in 1917, even though its examples consist entirely of obscure silent films (none of which appear to be available on video).

The title story, "Demons of the Night," is just the kind of derivative tale — familiar but with a twist — that many an author has used as his entry to published genre fiction, and it is wholly entertaining if taken in that spirit. (The ending especially is that of an oft-told campfire story.)

"Was She Mad?" is reminiscent of classic Poe with genuine horror contained in it. Though many authors have tackled the "possessed artifact" tale, Quinn's "The Stone Image" manages to be surprisingly effective at chilling the spine, even though its tropes are all too familiar.

"Painted Gold" is one of a few surprises found by editor Gene Christie in his searches. Neither it or "Romance Unawares" have been reprinted since their publication in Young's Magazine in 1919 and 1920, respectively. In the former, Lt. Rathburn Thomas has little appreciation for the feminine form until the continuous company of men in the service puts him on the prowl. Quinn warns us with his trademark erudite humor: "When a perfectly nice young man begins to act in this way, there is danter ahead, particularly for him; for it is from such that the victims of the Strange Woman are recruited."

But despite this protest, "Painted Gold" is an unexpectedly sweet romantic tale of a fellow who meets a beautiful woman but is put off by her rouge and lipstick, since that was only worn by the cheap girls back home. "Romance Unawares" is another truly sweet story of two life-long friends whom the whole town expect to be married and who find out (of course) that they really cannot do without each other. These stories show a different side of Seabury Quinn than the other early tales in Demons of the Night, but it's one I wouldn't mind seeing more of.

"The Cloth of Madness" is most famous for its appearance in Weird Tales, but it was actually first printed in Young's, too. It's a classic tale of the cuckold getting revenge in one of the most original ways I've read. The fiction of Demons of the Night closes with two of Quinn's Major Sturdevant stories, "Ravished Shrines" and "Out of the Land of Egypt" — neither of which impressed me, though Loomis is an engaging narrator — and two from his Professor Forrester series, "In the Fog" and "The Black Widow."

It is in the Professor Forrester tales, especially "In the Fog," that I found the most direct antecedent to the style of Robert E. Howard, both in the constant action and in the varied, poetic vocabulary. "In the Fog" finds Forrester locking himself inadvertently into a "house of mysteries" that is like a trip to the Orient, and that will require all of his myriad (and mildly implausible though wildly entertaining) talents to escape alive.

I especially admired how Quinn uses the house to allow the reader to experience a globe-trotting adventure without his hero's having to leave Washington. "In the Fog" is the first of the series that appeared in Read Detective Tales throughout 1927 and 1928, and explains the origin of the woman who would later be his ward. "The Black Widow" is equally engaging, though more a mystery than an adventure.

Editor and compiler Christie brings Demons of the Night and Other Early Tales to a satisfying conclusion by offering the reader the breadth of Quinn's published work with an extensive bibliography — as full as is currently known, anyway. Given the organic nature of the discovery process, Christie considers the bibliography a work in progress and gives contact information in the introductory paragraph, welcoming any new information the reader can offer.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Guest Blogger: Paul Levine, author of the Jake Lassiter and Solomon vs. Lord series

Today, I have the honor of welcoming author Paul Levine to the pages of Somebody Dies. He has written over a dozen novels, primarily in the legal-thriller genre, including the popular Jake Lassiter and Solomon vs. Lord series. His latest venture is the 20th-anniversary edition of his first novel, To Speak for the Dead, now available for the Amazon Kindle.

Levine tells about the experience — and what's special about this new edition:


“When is Jake Lassiter coming back?”

I get the question at bookstores and Bouchercon, at Thrillerfest and Sleuthfest, at Left Coast Crime, and even my dentist’s office. I might be promoting one of the Solomon vs. Lord books, or Illegal, but the questions always come back to this: “Where the heck is Jake?”

I wrote seven Lassiter novels between 1990 and 1997. Since then, I’ve written two stand-alone thrillers, a four-book series, and a bunch of episodes for two CBS-TV dramas. But what everyone wants to talk about is that linebacker-turned-lawyer, a tough guy with a tender heart.

“Jake’s not in jail, is he?”

I don’t think so, but given his conduct in court, maybe he should be.

Truth is, Jake Lassiter lives!

In Fall 2011, Lassiter will be out in hardcover from Bantam as Jake searches for a missing woman from his past and becomes entangled in the intertwined worlds of politics and porn. But wait, there’s more:

Jake Lassiter is back in print now!

Or rather, in bytes.


Just a click away.

I’m talking about e-books. You can start reading the 20th Anniversary edition of To Speak for the Dead in about 90 seconds.  An international bestseller, the first Lassiter novel was named one of the best mysteries of the year by the Los Angeles Times and became an NBC World Premiere Movie.

For a limited time, e-book sellers are offering To Speak for the Dead at the astonishing price of $2.99. Right, less than your double mocha latte, which by the way, Jake Lassiter would never drink. (That price may surprise the collector who e-mailed recently that he paid $325.00 for a signed first edition of To Speak for the Dead. Wow. I have a couple cartons in the garage if he wants more).

Now, here’s the best part: all author royalties — 100 percent — will go to the Four Diamonds Fund, which supports cancer research and treatment at Hershey Children’s Hospital. It’s a cause dear to my heart.

The facility, part of Penn State’s College of Medicine, is one of the premier institutions of its kind. Thanks to the Fund, children whose families lack the financial wherewithal receive top-notch medical care.

There’s even more news about Jake. The second book of the Lassiter series, Night Vision, is also available as an e-book, as is 9 Scorpions, a stand-alone legal thriller set at the Supreme Court.

In the next several months, all seven Lassiter books will be on Amazon Kindle and the other e-bookselling platforms. So, even if you’re new to the series, there’s time to catch up before the new one hits the stores next year. If you’ve already read the books in the dead-trees format, try them again on your e-reader or right on your desktop or laptop. Here’s a quick look at what’s available now.

To Speak for the Dead — Defending a surgeon in a malpractice case, Jake begins to suspect that his client is innocent of negligence...but guilty of murder. A sexy widow, a robbed grave, and another murder follow. “Move over Scott Turow. To Speak for the Dead is courtroom drama at its very best.” —Larry King, USA Today

Night Vision — Jake is appointed a special prosecutor when a serial killer begins stalking women on a sexually oriented Internet chat site. Enlisting a brilliant woman psychiatrist, Jake wades into a maze of lies and corruption to uncover the murderer. “Sparkles with wit and subtlety.” —Toronto Star

9 Scorpions — Sam Truitt, the newest and youngest justice on the Supreme Court, hires a brilliant and stunning female law clerk, unaware she has a personal stake in a huge case before the court. It’s a story of passion and violence, justice and revenge, in and out of court. “A relentlessly entertaining summer read.” —New York Daily News

For more info and to purchase, please visit http://www.paul-levine.com/content/jake-lassiter.asp.
Related Posts with Thumbnails