Friday, May 30, 2008

Friday's Forgotten Book: Lightning On The Sun

Detroit's own Patti Abbott recently started Friday's Forgotten Book, a boon to readers -- and content-stumped bloggers -- everywhere.

Thanks, Patti.

The aptly-titled, first-and-last novel Lightning On The Sun was published less than ten years ago, got some attention due more to author Robert Bingham’s fatal heroin overdose months earlier than to the novel’s considerable merit, and faded from view. I think it a fine, overlooked novel.

Bingham drew on his literary idols Graham Greene and Robert Stone, and on his time as a journalist in Cambodia (and, yes, as a heroin user), for this tale of nihilistic young Americans making an ill-conceived bid to cut themselves in on the drug trade.

The story is a bit loose to really work as a thriller, but it is thrilling. The live-wire narrative voice and the sense of doom are what stay with you: it’s like listening to that friend who’s sharper than you’ll ever be but will never profit from it, because all that his intellect can do is find the bitter joke, and the corruption, in everything.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Double Feature

Eastern Promises is a much better movie than A History of Violence, but they both have the same major flaw: Cronenberg builds up a lot of tension and mystery surrounding the identity of the character played by Viggo Mortensen and then, perversely, lets it all leak away in a single, pedestrian scene.

“Jiu Jitsu?” someone asks Chiwetal Ejiofor early in David Mamet’s Redbelt. “Isn’t that where you use a guy’s strength against him?” Not really, our hero replies…but that’s exactly what happens to him for the next ninety minutes. The great Ricky Jay was MIA in Spartan; he’s back here, with a vengeance.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

The Return of Jane Whitefield

Speaking of Thomas Perry: Earlier today, while reading his new novel, Fidelity, I took a moment to check out his website and found the notice below, posted this very day:

I also have a second announcement to make. After her long vacation, Jane Whitefield will be making a return in a new book called Runner, scheduled for January, 2009. I'm talking about this here and now because the visitors to this web site are partly responsible. In the years since I decided to give Jane Whitefield a rest, about half of the email I've received from readers has included the question, "Will there ever be another Jane Whitefield book?"

I always responded that I did intend to write another one at some point, but didn't know when. I had intentionally left Jane alive and well in Amherst, New York, living with her surgeon husband as Mrs. Jane McKinnon. She's been nearly indistinguishable from many of the women around her. She's perhaps a bit more watchful than some of her neighbors, and the survival kit she keeps in case of disasters isn't just bottled water and batteries, but those differences have been subtle and unnoticed. But trouble never leaves anyone alone forever, and Jane's time of rest is up. During Jane's absence, a whole new industry with new methods and technology has grown up to prevent people from moving around the country under false identities. Now, in spite of the fact that she's acutely aware of the danger, there's no way Jane can avoid coming back to transform one more victim into a runner.

I've always been aware that the loyal readers who have given me a writing career deserved to have their wishes considered. But I was also aware that I owed it to them to wait until I had a story that was significant enough to make it worth a reader's time. I think Runner is the story I was waiting for.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Read, Reading, On Deck


Lawless: A Criminal Edition, Ed Brubaker & Sean Phillips

Kill All Your Darlings, Luc Sante
(Skip the longish essay on the bygone era of America as a smoking culture if you’re trying to quit [smoking], but do read the piece on the Mekons whether the name means anything to you or not.)

Matala, Craig Holden

Delusion, Peter Abrahams
(Abrahams’ thrillers are the books Harlan Coben thinks he writes. If Hitchcock were still alive, he’d be bringing Abrahams to the screen.)

Zero Cool, John Lange


Yellow-Dog Contract, Ross Thomas

On Deck:

Dirty Money, Richard Stark

A Special Providence, Richard Yates

Fidelity, Thomas Perry

The appearance of a new Thomas Perry novel signals that this blog is nearly one year old.

Is this when the money starts pouring in?

Friday, May 2, 2008


Detroit Noir contributor Megan Abbott has won the Edgar Award for Best Paperback Original for her novel Queenpin, and deservedly so.

Her story “Our Eyes Couldn’t Stop Opening” directly follows my story in Detroit Noir and makes me look silly.

Also: Susan Straight won the Edgar for Best Short Story for "The Golden Gopher" in Akashic Books' Los Angeles Noir.