Tuesday, April 15, 2014

A Wonderful Re-Issue of TIME AND AGAIN

I am thrilled to see this re-issue of TIME AND AGAIN, Jack Finney's terrific 1970 time-travel novel in which a New York artist travels to the city in 1882.  My friend Jim lent me the book in the 1990s and said that I would enjoy it.  I did like
the story, which is adventurous, romantic, and nostalgic.  But beyond that, the tale had that ineffable something that made me never forget it--neither the title nor the author--and I've recommended it to many people myself in the years since I first read it.

Now Touchstone has released an updated version with "digitally restored art, a completely redesigned interior, and an all-new foreword by Audrey Niffenegger."  

I was lucky enough to snag a copy of the new version, and I'm enjoying it greatly, especially the photographs of New York which Finney uses as the basis of his story.  Every old photograph creates a sense of nostalgia for a time we never knew, and there is a certain associated sadness with the necessary separation of our reality and that image. Finney erases the separation with his bold tale of a man who walks into the past.


Sunday, April 06, 2014

Giving New Life to Great Fiction

I just became aware of Chalk Line Books, a new imprint created by the Devault-Graves Agency, the goal of which is to re-publish, in e-book form, the great books of the past.

As they say on the website:

"We started with two of the best—Jim Thompson and David Goodis. We hope you will join us as we add more authors such as Charles Williams, Ed McBain, Peter Rabe and many others to our roster. If you recognize the importance of Black Lizard Books, a company that is no longer publishing, in republishing these authors, then you will understand what we hope to accomplish."

I'm always for the idea of re-discovering great writing that has potentially fallen by the wayside. Let's hope Chalk Line is able to build a new readership for authors who deserve it.

And Chalk Line?  How about some great mysteries by women?  You can start with Margaret Millar and Patricia Wentworth. 

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Two Great Reads Culled From The TBR Pile

I am lucky enough to receive many books from publishers; lately I haven't found time to read many of them, but two stand out in my recent reading.

First, Chris Abani's The Secret History of Las Vegas. I'm surprised I haven't heard of Abani before; his style is literary and accomplished, and he wrote five books before this one, in addition to volumes of poetry. The book reads less like a mystery and more like a novel, but it's a compelling book with Steinbeck-like dialogue and fascinating internal monologues.

His characters, too, are distinctive. First, there is Salazar the detective, who hopes to pin some unsolved murders on a pair of conjoined twins.  He enlists the help of Sunil Singh, a South African immigrant who is haunted by the Apartheid years and his own distinct memories. Singh is well-versed in the behavior of psychopaths, and is expected to diagnose the twins as such.

Most memorable, though, are the conjoined twins, named Fire and Water.  Their very existence raises questions about the culpability of government and society when children are born with anomalies related to their environment. Fire and Water have been considered freaks all of their lives, but this gives them a distinct view of the world, and of the people who view them with immediate judgment.

Abani's writing, literary and graceful, immerses the reader in his Las Vegas setting--a perfect place to encompass the variations of humanity that pass through this paradoxical city.

Another great read is Elisabeth Elo's North of Boston.  In it, she introduces a nuanced, spunky narrator named Pirio Kasparov, an independent woman who recognizes her dualities, smiling wryly at her shortcomings even as she accomplishes feats of valor and detection.

Pirio loses a friend to a boating accident in Boston, but she soon becomes convinced that his death was not accidental, and she begins to look into it.  Like Abani, Elo writes seamless prose, poetic and compelling, and her dialogue is memorable, especially when Pirio is talking with her godson, a vulnerable boy who has faced more than his share of conflict.

Pirio is both tragic and funny, and I was worried about her for almost the whole novel, despite the fact that she is very strong and has been scientifically proven to be able to withstand extremes better than just about anyone.  Still, she is almost foolishly brave, and my only complaint about the novel is that sometimes Pirio got into situations that I couldn't believe anyone--even she--would be willing to endure.

Both books were a pleasure to read, and I look forward to more from these accomplished authors.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

"Ice is Just as Great, and Would Suffice"


Frost seemed to predict the climate change debate when he wrote "Fire and Ice."  Certainly this winter is making the ice theory seem plausible, except that those with an imagination (and a memory) will recall that the summer temperatures were just as extreme in the other direction, and are likely to be again, accompanied by storms of record intensity. This is the new age of weather.

I just sat holed up for two "snow days" which were really "negative temperatures days."  I got to read books and write them, and I was lucky enough to be able to do it in a heated house. I found myself wondering how people (and animals) survive in this brutal weather.

But here are the things that I am most grateful for, after this last weekend in Chicago:

--flannel sheets
--a warm body next to me in bed (my husband)
--goosedown comforters
--safe space heaters
--our working furnace
--emergency workers who help people trapped in the cold
--tea and hot chocolate
--Carmex and Chapstick
--pets who found cozy corners to keep them warm (in the case of our tiny female cat, that place is right in front of the bathroom heat vent--warmest room in the house!)

Keep warm, everyone. This too shall pass.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Making the Holiday Reading List

I'm not normally a reader of historical mysteries, but CITY OF LOST DREAMS, the new book by Magnus Flyte, seems to be much more than that--it is whimsey and fantasy in a historical setting, according to Kirkus, who called it "a lively, amusing romantic mystery," while CNN dubbed it "one of the most original novels released this year."

You had me at romantic, actually, but I always like to read something fresh and lively, and this book seems to be just the ticket for my holiday reading.

There is, apparently, a first book, called CITY OF DARK MAGIC, but I think I'm going to start with number two and see if it strikes my fancy.  I can always go back and read the other book by the mysterious Mr. Flyte.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Gearing up for Autumn



Fall is almost here, and the weather in Chicago is aready crisp and cool. This is the time for long walks, hot soup, sweatshirts, and extra covers on the bed--with the windows open!!

What's your favorite thing about autumn?

Monday, September 02, 2013

Happy Labor Day

                                                    May all of your labors be appreciated.