Fresh Meat: <i>Betrayed</i> by Lisa Scottoline Fresh Meat: Betrayed by Lisa Scottoline Kerry Hammond This is Judy's most personal case yet. Fresh Meat: <i>Wink of an Eye</i> by Lynn Chandler Willis Fresh Meat: Wink of an Eye by Lynn Chandler Willis John Jacobson Welcome home, Gypsy. Now can you please solve this murder? Now Win <i>This</i>!: The Quick Getaway Sweepstakes Now Win This!: The Quick Getaway Sweepstakes Crime HQ Not all vacations are created equal. Fresh Meat: <i>The Job</i> by Janet Evanovich and Lee Goldberg Fresh Meat: The Job by Janet Evanovich and Lee Goldberg Susan Amper We're off to Istanbul!
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Showing posts by: Dave Richards click to see Dave Richards's profile
Mon
May 5 2014 10:00pm

Fresh Meat The Zodiac Deception by Gary Kriss

The Zodiac Deception by Gary Kriss is a debut historical thriller, in which an American con man, educated by both Houdini and Conan Doyle, is sent to deceive Himmler into assassinating Hitler (available May 6, 2014).

“All the world's a stage and all the men and women merely players.”

That line from Shakespeare's As You Like It is uttered by the protagonist of Gary Kriss's debut novel about half way through the book, but it's one of the story's central and most interesting themes. Because if you think about it, spies and con men are essentially actors trying to convince their audience that the stories they are hearing are important and true, and they're playing those parts as if their lives depended on their success. For a spy or a con man, a bad review can mean imprisonment or death.

In The Zodiac Deception, Kriss plunges his protagonist into espionage's equivalent of opening night in a Broadway production where the actors have had hardly any time to prepare and their audience includes some of the most paranoid, bloodthirsty, and dangerous men in the world. The novel is set in Nazi Germany, circa 1942, and con man turned spy David Walker has been tasked by OSS Chief Wild Bill Donovan with the impossible mission of convincing SS Commander Heinrich Himmler to assassinate Adolf Hitler.

[Right, sure, no problem...]

Mon
Dec 16 2013 11:30pm

Holiday Havoc: 5 Warped, Weird, & Wonderful Christmas Graphic Novels

Christmas is a time where an overweight immortal man pilots a sleigh of flying reindeer across the globe, an angel shows a suicidal man the impact he’s had on the world, and spectral entities show misers the error of their ways. So, we’re used to Yuletide tales of strange and in some cases frightening phenomenon. Watching these tales unfold on the silver and small screens has become a holiday tradition for many, but there’s another medium that tells these kinds of stories in a powerful, unique, and exciting way that Hollywood can’t approach, and that’s comic books and graphic novels. We'll start this list with some hilarious, warped, and bloody Yuletide fun:

 

The Last Christmas by Brian Posehn & Gerry Duggan, artist Rick Remender

Imagine a mash up of Rankin-Bass Christmas specials, The Road Warrior, and The Walking Dead. If you're horrified by that, then move along! But if you like your Christmas cheer blended with twisted black humor and over-the-top violence...

Duggan, Posehn, and Remender's tale takes readers to a violent, post-apocalyptic world being ravaged by marauding gangs and zombie mutants. When the gangs hit the North Pole and murder Mrs. Claus, Santa decides to give up on Christmas and life, but the belief of one good boy keeps him alive. So will Santa be able to over come his personal demons to save the boy from an army of evil and bring back Christmas to the world? That's the central question in this story that blends festive delight and post-apocalyptic carnage into wickedly funny, perverse, and exciting holiday cocktail.

 

[More visions of sugarplums and flying horses ahead...]

Wed
Dec 11 2013 2:45pm

Holiday Havoc: Christmas Films with Explosions

Santa rides to give presents and kick-ass, and he's all out of presents.The holidays are a time for peace on Earth and good will towards man. So movies set at that time often involve heartwarming and cute scenes like Tiny Tim saying, “God bless us everyone;” Jimmy Stewart running through Bedford Falls wishing everybody a, “Merry Christmas;” and the guy from The Walking Dead telling Kiera Knightly that she’s perfect. That’s fine, and those are some scenes from good movies, but I don’t think there’s anything wrong with having a good action sequence at Christmas time. In fact, it can be a lot of fun to watch brave heroes and heroines battle to preserve the spirit of the season. So, if you’re in the mood for some mayhem to go along with your cheer, here are several exciting holiday classics to consider:

Die Hard  (1988) & Die Hard 2 (1990)

These are the two films that probably come to mind when most people think about Christmas action movies, and for good reason, too. Watching a lone everyman (granted, his everyman quality tended to diminish as the film franchise went on), John McClane, try to save Christmas from an army of bad guys is a lot of fun, especially when their leader is Alan Rickman. The tension, humor, and Rickman’s villainy make the first film one of the greatest action movies of all time, but the sequel where McClane tries to liberate a busy holiday airport from the grip of William Sadler’s rogue military unit is a lot of fun, too.

If the first Die Hard is already a regularly part of your holiday viewing, you might want to try reading the novel it's based on, Roderick Thorp's Nothing Lasts Forever, which is a much darker and grittier story. It features an older protagonist named Joe Leland, but it's still fantastic. I'm currently reading 58 Minutes by Walter Wager, which was the inspiration for Die Hard 2.

[KaBOOM! Santa's got a half dozen more to drop on you...]

Tue
Nov 5 2013 9:30am

Fresh Meat: One More Body by Josh Stallings

One More body by Josh StallingsOne More Body by Josh Stallings is the third book in the Moses McGuire noir series (available November 5, 2013).

Character is king in all forms of fiction, especially crime fiction. It's the reason why we follow intrepid detectives, world weary criminals, and driven tough guys into nightmare worlds of depravity and violence. It's why we root for these characters to over come seemingly unbeatable odds and it's why our heart bleeds for them when their personal demons over come them. Josh Stallings clearly understands this.  It's why his previous Moses McGuire novels Beautiful, Naked & Dead, and Out There Bad are so damn good  It's also why his newest McGuire novel, One More Body, is another powerful, poignant, exciting, and just plain cool read.

Another simple truth of fiction is that actions have consequences. Heroes, aren't just heroic because they risk life and limb to take on great threats. They're also heroic because the violence often required to destroy these threats affects these heroes on a deep, psychological level. This is something else that Stallings understands. When we first check in with Moses McGuire at the beginning of One More Body, the psychological wounds of what he saw and had to do in his previous outing are still very raw. Since the McGuire novels are predominately told in first person narrative here he tells us just how haunted he actually is:

[Everyone has ghosts...]

Thu
Oct 24 2013 10:00am

Fresh Meat: Silent City by Alex Segura

Silent City by Alex SeguraSilent City by Alex Segura is the first book in a new series about reporter-turned-P.I., Pete Fernandez (available October 29, 2013).

It takes a hard man to become a private investigator.  Raymond Chandler's Phillip Marlowe investigated crimes for the Los Angeles' D.A.'s Office before he went into business for himself. Robert B. Parker's Spenser was a soldier, a boxer, and a state trooper before he became a gumshoe. And before Robert Crais' Elvis Cole became the self-proclaimed “World's Greatest Detective,” he was an army ranger.

So, is a guy who makes his living editing the sports section of a Miami news paper cut out to be a private detective? In his debut novel, Silent City, former Archie Comics writer Alex Segura makes a fun and compelling argument for the idea of a journalist turned private detective.

[It's more than just fact finding and leads, you know. ]

Mon
Oct 7 2013 8:30am

Fresh Meat: Dying is My Business by Nicholas Kaufmann

Dying is My Business by Nicholas KaufmannDying is My Business by Nicholas Kaufmann is the first book in an urban fantasy detective series (available October 8, 2013).

The Urban Fantasy story with its blend of the Sword and Sorcery and Crime/Detective genres has proven to be a potent and fun literary cocktail. That doesn't mean though that the mix can't be improved upon or revitalized by adding in new elements to spice things up. Nicholas Kaufmann proves that in his new novel Dying is My Business by throwing in some ideas and elements from an entirely different medium, comic books, specifically Marvel ones. These simple story-telling ideas pioneered by creators like Stan Lee and Jack Kirby are just as effective in prose and blend together nicely with the Crime and Sword and Sorcery conventions to make Dying is My Business a fun and unique story.

The first Marvel Comics style element I noticed in Kaufmann's novel is the idea that super powers are not always a blessing. In fact they can ruin your life and the lives of others around you. You see that in Spider-Man, who's always wrestling with his responsibilities to his costumed and personal lives, or in members of the X-Men, like Rogue whose ability to absorb powers and memories rendered her unable to touch another human being for fear of leaving them comatose or worse. That makes these characters' heroic actions extra poignant and powerful.

[The two big p's...]

Sun
Jun 30 2013 9:00am

The Big Score: Soundtracks for Crime Novels

Joker in Dark KnightMovies and television shows are interesting forms of entertainment because so many different elements are blended together into one narrative. The scene that a writer constructs is just as important as the way an actor delivers a line in that scene, or the way the director and cinematographer choose to film that scene. One element that often gets overlooked though is music. The right background music can add so much power, drama, and pathos to a film or a television show.

Score music doesn't have to be exclusive to films and television though. One of the great things about reading a novel or a short story is many elements of the narrative are left up to you. So when I read I usually have my iPod handy so I can pick a piece of music to highlight the mood and tone of a scene I'm reading. Many of them are score tracks from great crime and action films.

In this piece I'll share some of the tracks I use on a regular basis when I'm reading crime novels and what scenes I think they're appropriate for. Plus, I've provided YouTube videos so you can decide if you want to include them in your own personal crime novel soundtracks.

[Let the music take you to a more criminal mindset!]

Thu
May 23 2013 11:00am

Nobody Expects the Space Inquisition: Warhammer 40K Tie-in Novels

My first experience with Games Workshop’s tabletop miniature war game Warhammer 40,000 left me rather unimpressed. Basically it involved moving around a bunch of little metal figures and rolling dice to see if I hit anything. The figures were these cool futuristic looking soldiers, but you had to paint them and my painting skills are terrible.

Still there was something about the visual aesthetic of the miniatures and the world they inhabit that stuck with me. Imagine a world that combines noirish intrigue, Lovecraftian horror, psychic powers, the futuristic war machines and technology of Star Wars and Dune, the fantasy races of Tolkein, and features a very cool heavy metal album style visual aesthetic. That’s the expertly blended cocktail that is the universe of Warhammer 40K. It might not have impressed me to see it played out on a tabletop, but it was epically cool in my head. So one day I decided to take another a look at the larger Warhammer 40K universe, especially the tie-in fiction.

[We’re thinking this will be epically cool on the page...]

Sun
May 12 2013 9:00am

My Sword is Quick: Fantasy Meets Crime Fiction

Escapism is one of the appeals of the fantasy genre. It’s a chance to visit a world where impossible things like magic and monsters are real, and to go on epic quests to save the world. It can be just as fun and interesting though to see those elements bump up against real world events such as crime and murder. Generally you only see that collision in fantasy tales set in the modern worlds like Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files series. There are a number of authors, though, who have combined the elements of crime and noir with stories set in mythical or ancient realms.

[Crime and Fantasy were made for each other!]

Mon
Feb 4 2013 9:30am

Fresh Meat: This is Life by Seth Harwood

This is Life by Seth Harwood is the second Jack Palms mystery, set in San Francisco (available February 19, 2013).

I grew up in the ’80s and fondly remember the action movies of that era. They were exciting and full of edge-of-your-seat thrills. Violence was a big part of those thrills, but one of the things I firmly remember from watching those movies as a kid was how utterly terrifying the violence could be. Gunshots were loud! When people were hit by them blood exploded from their bodies! Violence wasn’t glamorized, it was ugly and painful. So the best of these films managed to be both visceral and exciting, but also give you a sense that death and destruction were forces that you didn’t want to be part of your world. Those are hard stories to tell because fun and grim consequences are not easy things to balance, but writer Seth Harwood does an admirable job in his latest thriller to hit print, This is Life.

[It is all about the balance...]

Mon
Jan 7 2013 9:30am

Help Hawkeye Hit a Bull’s-Eye for Hurricane Relief

His skill with a bow and arrow is so great that it allows him to stand shoulder to shoulder with gods, giants, and legends. His name is Clint Barton aka Hawkeye and this summer filmgoers everywhere were introduced to him thanks to the feature film adaptation of Marvel Comics’ “Avengers” series.

Hawkeye (as portrayed by Jeremy Renner) spent quite a bit of the film in thrall to the villainous Loki so people who were meeting him for the first time only caught a glimpse of the character’s aim, cunning, sarcasm, and heart. Readers who have been following Hawkeye’s comic book adventures since his introduction in 1964’s “Tales of Suspense” #57 know the Avenging Archer possesses all of these qualities in spades, especially if they’re reading the current Hawkeye series by writer Matt Fraction and artist David Aja.

Hawkeye would go on to fight alongside Iron Man, but in his initial comic book appearances in “Tales of Suspense” he fought against the Armored Avenger. Those early battles came about because of the machinations of his future teammate the Black Widow who was still a spy for the Soviet Union at the time and would become an Avenger herself years later.

[His aim is true...]

Mon
Dec 17 2012 9:30am

Fresh Meat: Flash Gordon: The Tyrant of Mongo: The Complete Flash Gordon Library 1937-1941 by Alex Raymond and Don Moore

Flash Gordon: The Tyrant of Mongo: The Complete Flash Gordon Library 1937-1941 by Alex Raymond and Don MooreHe took on a high-tech empire decades before Luke Skywalker and his friends challenged Darth Vader and his Emperor. He was leading bands of freemen in guerrilla operations years before Frank Herbert recorded the adventures of Paul Atreides in his classic science fiction novel Dune. Of course, I’m talking about that fictional character whose adventures are the subject of one of the catchiest Queen songs ever: Flash Gordon.

Flash made his debut in newspaper comic strips in 1934 and would go on to become one of the most influential science fiction heroes of all time. His four-color adventures and the movie serials based on them would inspire the creation of landmark science fiction franchises like Star Trek and Star Wars. The reason Flash’s adventures had such a monumental impact on popular culture was because of the creators involved: the artist Alex Raymond and the strip’s writer Don Moore. Recently fans in the U.S. have been given a chance to rediscover or become acquainted with Raymond and Moore’s Flash Gordon work thanks to a beautiful series of library edition hardcovers.

The latest collected edition in the series Flash Gordon: The Tyrant of Mongo Sundays 1937-1941 collects Moore and Raymond’s Sunday strips which detail Flash’s epic adventures across the planet Mongo and his quest to bring down the empire of Ming, the titular tyrant. The book opens with an informative essay by comics writer and Flash Gordon historian Doug Murray, and then you get your first glimpse of a lavish and beautiful world...

[Take me to Mongo!]

Thu
Nov 1 2012 3:00pm

The Wire on a Reservation: Jason Aaron’s Native American Crime Saga Scalped

The Wire (2002-2008)

If you were an HBO subscriber from 2002 to 2008 you got to watch something special unfold. That something special was of course David Simon’s acclaimed drama The Wire, which at first glance appeared to be a police procedural about the war on drugs on the streets of Baltimore. Viewers quickly discovered though that The Wire was about so much more. The cops and the criminals were fully fleshed out characters with both positive and negative personality traits, and each season their struggle bumped up against, and influenced, the lives of the citizens and institutions of Baltimore, including the unions, the politicians, the schools, and the newspaper.

So by the end of its run it was clear that The Wire wasn’t just a crime show. It was a television program about the entire community of Baltimore and its struggle to survive. That’s the reason it fascinated so many viewers during its run and that’s why it continues to capture the imagination of viewers discovering it for the first time years later on DVD.

[And if you liked that, you’re gonna love this!]

Sun
Oct 21 2012 10:00am

Crimes of the (Next) Century: A Look at Sci-fi Crime Novels

Neuromancer by William GibsonThroughout history, technology and social conditions have changed, but human nature usually doesn’t. So crime has always been part of our world and unless things change drastically it will continue to be part of society well into the future. The one thing that will change in the future though is how crime is committed and how it’s fought. For years writers have been postulating what the future of law breaking and law enforcement will look like with stories that meld the conventions of sci-fi and crime fiction. So it’s a genre cocktail with something to offer all types of crime fiction fans and in this piece we’ll look at some notable, and some of my favorite, sci-fi crime hybrids.

Perhaps the best-known example of sci-fi crime tales is the subgenre known as cyberpunk, which has been characterized as “high tech and low life.” In cyberpunk, outlaws and antiheroes use technology, cunning, and often violence to fight back, outwit, and escape powerful organizations, such as corporations.  Computers and artificial environments like cyberspace are also an important element in cyberpunk. So the stories often read like surreal and trippy noir tales. Writers such as Phillip K. Dick and Alfred Bester paved the way for the cyberpunk genre, which kicked off in the ’80s with the emergence of its most notable author, William Gibson whose 1984 novel Neuromancer is viewed as a classic of the genre.

[Bring on the crime-solving cyborgs!]

Thu
Aug 9 2012 9:30am

Break in on the Ground Floor of Robert Kirkman’s Thief of Thieves

Thief of Thieves by Robert KirkmanBack in 2003 writer Robert Kirkman and artist Tony Moore launched a small independent series from Image Comics about a band of survivors trying to make their way in a world that had been devastated by a zombie apocalypse. The series was called The Walking Dead and over the next several years big things would happen to it. The first was that Charlie Adlard began providing the art for the series on issue #07 and the covers from issue #24. Then, thanks to word of mouth, Kirkman’s magnum zombie opus became a huge hit.

The hit became a phenomenon thanks to AMC’s immensely popular adaptation of The Walking Dead, which premiered in 2010 and wrapped up its second season as the highest rated basic cable drama of all time and an international success in 120 countries and 250 million households. The television series drew more people to the comic, making its sales stronger than ever as the top-selling graphic novel of 2011. It’s on track to repeat that feat for 2012, and it reached its milestone 100th issue on July 11.

Kirkman continues to write The Walking Dead and serves as both a writer and executive producer on the television adaptation. So he’s a very busy man, but he still has time to produce other comics as well. This past February, he and his collaborators, co-writer Nick Spencer and artist Shawn Martinbrough, launched a series that is poised to be another Walking Dead-style phenomenon, the heist thriller series Thief of Thieves.

[It may be a thriller, but it definitely doesn’t lack humor . . .]

Mon
Aug 6 2012 9:30am

Westeros Noir: A Game of Thrones as Crime Fiction

Game of ThronesWhen it comes to fiction I love most genres: horror, science fiction, and especially crime. I even enjoy a good western. But when it comes to the fantasy genre my tastes get a little more complicated. I enjoy modern day fantasy stories like The Dresden Files or the Harry Potter books and the classic sword and sorcery style tales of writers like Robert E. Howard are a lot of fun. What I really don’t enjoy though are books that tend to fall under the heading of Epic Fantasy. To me Epic Fantasy tales can often feel like bloated, morally simplistic stories where the author is more interested in giving you exposition about the history of their world than developing their characters.

So last year when many of my friends began raving about Game of Thrones, HBO’s television adaption of George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series of novels, I just didn’t get it. I had seen the books and they looked like they were way too long. So I watched the first few episodes of the first season  and suddenly I was hooked. Everybody loved it because there was something for everybody, especially a crime fiction fan like me! It wasn’t just the show either—having just finished the novel that inspired the first season of the television show I can definitely say that the series has enough crime, intrigue, and morally murky action to satisfy any crime or noir fan.

[Winter is coming . . .]

Thu
May 10 2012 1:00pm

Crime and Horror With a Four Color Twist: Hack/Slash and Fatale

Hack Slash...killing ChuckyIn the late 1940s and early 1950s, Publisher William Gaines’s EC Comics began a new line of titles that included several different genres, most notably crime and horror. The comics featured stunning art and tightly plotted tales that often incorporated twist endings. They were violent, lurid, and fun, so naturally they incensed alarmist academics and politicians looking for something to blame all of society’s ills on. In 1954, a number of publishers banded together to create the Comics Code Authority as a way of satisfying a hysterical public that believed comic books were turning adolescents into violent criminals

The Comics Code Authority contained strict regulations on what could be published in Code-approved books and these regulations basically prohibited EC from continuing to publish most of their best selling crime and horror titles. As time wore on though the code began to become looser and gradually lost power. These days, there are a number of crime and horror comics. There are even a few titles that combine those two genres together to tell fun, frightening, and intriguing stories. Tim Seeley’s long-running Hack/Slash series and Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips’s fifteen-issue epic Fatale both exemplify this kind of work, though in very different ways.

Seeley’s Hack/Slash series was born in 2004 out of his love for good and so-bad-they’re-good horror films, specifically those of the slasher sub-genre like Halloween, Friday the 13th, and A Nightmare on Elm Street. These tend to involve some form of serial killer stalking a group of restless teenagers until one of their number, usually a female, fights back and destroys the killer.

[Bring on the slashers!]

Wed
Apr 4 2012 12:00pm

Crime and Horror: Two Great Tastes that Taste Great Together

Storm Front, a Harry Dresden novel, by Jim ButcherWhen a crime is committed a balance is upset and with that comes a sense of unease and perhaps even dread, especially if the perpetrator of the crime renains at large. It’s like a monster has been set loose into society and sometimes that’s exactly what’s happened... because the crime and horror genres go together like chocolate and peanut butter. Writers have been combining elements of these genres together for years to create stories that maximize the strengths of both genres.

These crime-horror hybrids all take a detail-oriented and often gritty approach to the actions of the criminals and the people trying to stop them, but where they usually differ from traditional procedurals is in the role otherworldly elements play in the narrative. In this piece we’ll take a look at the types of horror commonly found in some recent and popular crime series.

[Beware the shadows]

Mon
Feb 27 2012 9:30am

Down These Mean, Demon-Haunted Streets: Supernatural as a Crime Show

A morgue attendant in a white lab coat pulls open a battered metal drawer. Its contents are a corpse that’s been recently murdered in a brutal and strange fashion. The attendant steps back and two guys in suits lean forward to examine the corpse for clues to its demise. Sound like a scene from Law & Order or one of the many police procedurals or forensics shows? Wrong! It’s a scene that appears often in the long-running series, Supernatural

Over the course of several seasons, the seventh which is currently unfolding, the protagonists of Supernatural, brothers Sam and Dean Winchester, have investigated and eliminated many of the things that go bump in the night. So the show features many elements of horror and fantasy, but what makes it truly interesting is that it does so through the filter of hardboiled crime fiction.

[Now wait a minute...there’s going bump and bumping off...]

Fri
Feb 17 2012 10:00pm

Fresh Meat: The Punisher by Greg Rucka, Volume 1

The Punisher, Volume 1 by Greg Rucka and Marco ChecchettoWars are common occurrences in crime fiction. They can be gang wars between rival mobsters, a war on drugs, or an all-encompassing war against the forces of organized crime itself. The latter type of war has been waged by many memorable protagonists like Dashiell Hammett’s Continental Op, Richard Stark’s Parker, Don Pendleton’s Mack Bolan, and Bolan’s four-color descendant, Marvel Comics’ U.S. Marine-turned-vigilante Frank Castle, AKA the Punisher.

Acclaimed thriller writer Greg Rucka joins artists Marco Checchetto, Matthew Southworth, Matthew Clark, and color artist Matt Hollingsworth to kick off a new campaign in the Punisher’s ongoing war against organized crime. The Punisher Volume 1 (March 14, 2012) is a graphic novel that collects the first six issues of the title character’s current series.

One common way to follow a war on crime is through the perspective of the person that wages it. Rucka isn’t interested in doing that, though. The Punisher is almost a force of nature in the opening stories. His first line of dialogue doesn’t come until the end of the third story in the collection. So instead of the Punisher’s perspective, Rucka offers up the P.O.V.s of several compelling characters caught up in the Punisher’s current campaign against crime.

These characters’ fates become intertwined when two rival gangs open fire on each other in the middle of a wedding, killing most of the guests. The first characters we meet are the detectives assigned to make sense of the massacre, and they allow Rucka to graft some interesting police procedural elements onto his tale. They are veteran Detective Ozzie Clemons, who has a keen analytical mind and is morally offended by the Punisher’s violent crusade, and his new partner, Detective Walter Bolt, who unbeknownst to Ozzie, is an informant for the Punisher.

[Hero or villain? Who sees the Punisher truly?]