Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Twice As (sic) Nice

Hey! I've had a second story accepted by DZ Allen's Muzzle Flash.

Follow the link below right to "Easiest Thing In The World", and check out the other recent flash stories and the archives at Muzzle Flash.

Friday, February 8, 2008

Robert Littell; Charles McCarry

I read Patrick Anderson’s The Triumph of the Thriller about a year ago. It’s a survey of popular crime/mystery authors of the past thirty years, breezy and very enjoyable, and I’m most indebted to it for introducing me to the novels of Robert Littell and Charles McCarry.

The past few years I’ve had the pleasure of picking up on some great writers when they had only a book or two under their belts, like Sean Doolittle, Sara Gran, and Kevin Wignall.

It’s a different kind of satisfaction, though, to discover a great writer who has already produced a shelf. And it’d been about eight years since I last had the experience (Ross Thomas.)

Littell and McCarry have each produced a shelf. They both write espionage with a literary bent. Stylistically, McCarry favors Maugham or perhaps Fitzgerald; Littell, Lewis Carroll and Don Delillo. Both are Americans who seem more at home abroad, and most at home in the Great Game (though both have also written novels set pre- and/or post-Cold War.) McCarry, a former CIA field agent, is aristocratic and romantic; Littell, a former journalist, goes for bitter irony and brittle absurdity.

Both are having a career renaissance of sorts, care of The Overlook Press, which is in the process of reprinting both authors’ entire backlist.

Whenever I get hepped to one of these fantastic backlisters, I tend to treat them like money in the bank, and try to read only a book (or two) a year, saving them for the slow months between the next new Doolittle or Gran or Abbott; eight years in, I’ve still got seven Ross Thomas books to track down.

I’ve been on a tear lately, though, reading several books in a row by these two gents.

Their most recent novels are actually great points of departure for the uninitiated.

McCarry’s Christopher’s Ghosts is a story of revenge, and I only begin to suggest its wise and sorrowful tone when I let slip that the crime and the retribution are separated by twenty years’ time.

Littell’s Vicious Circle is a story of a kidnapping, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, a near future with a female American president, and reverse-Stockholm syndrome. He manages to work a ridiculous amount of Middle East history and history of religion into the mix without ever letting you forget you’re reading a thriller.

If you prefer, say, The Good Shepherd to The Bourne Ultimate, Charles McCarry and Robert Littell will be right up your alley.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Movie: Michael Clayton (2007)

I couldn’t tell you why the bulk of the story needed to be told in flashback -- and wouldn't it have been a better story if Tom Wilkinson’s character hadn’t been on meds in the first place?

Minor caveats. Michael Clayton is great.

With this film and Syriana and Good Night, and Good Luck (and even, I would say, The Peacemaker, and misfires like Intolerable Cruelty and The Good German), George Clooney seems dedicated to making movies that presuppose, in a way that most American movies since the late seventies have not, an intelligent audience of genuine adults.
He's a good guy to have around.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

2008 Edgar Nominees

...This just in...(several weeks ago...).....

Detroit Noir contributor Megan Abbott scored an Edgar nomination for Best Paperback Original for her novel Queenpin, and Daniel Woodrell has been nominated for Best Short Story for "Uncle", which appears in the anthology A Hell of a Woman (edited by Megan.)

Susan Straight scored an Edgar nomination for Best Short Story for "The Golden Gopher" in Akashic Books' Los Angeles Noir.

Congratulations and best of luck, especially to Megan: Queenpin is brilliant, and more fun than should strictly be legal, but holy cow the PBO category is an embarassment of riches this year...