Those who know me know I like to write--and read--mostly mystery stories. As for the writing part, my "genre specialty" is made easier because almost any story involving a crime can be considered a mystery.
Today, though, I want to tell you about two pieces of fiction that I recently discovered from other genres, and they're stories that I found exceptional. One's a western and one's science fiction, but both are chock full of crime and deception; does that mean they could be loosely defined as mysteries? Probably not. But I liked 'em anyway.
The first is a Netflix Orginal series called Godless. And I need to clarify that a bit. A lot of TV shows that I've watched lately, like Goliath, True Detective, Fargo, etc. (and unlike Longmire, Game of Thrones, Stranger Things, House of Cards, and most others), have been what's become known as "limited-series" presentations--stories that are told start-to-finish in one season. There might be some degree of similarity and continuity between seasons, but mostly the story ends when the season ends, and you wind up with what amounts to a single seven-to-ten-hour, full-character-arc movie. I usually binge-watch them.
Godless is a western, and one of the best I've seen. It features a few familiar faces like Jeff Daniels and Sam Waterston and a bunch of lesser-known actors that have become better known as a result of their being cast here. The story involves a legendary outlaw in pursuit of a former friend who betrayed him, but the strangest thing about the show is that it takes place in the fictional La Belle, New Mexico, which is a town of mostly women--all the men have been killed in a catastrophic mining accident. I won't get into too many details here, but this seven-episode series is truly well done, in every way. The writing, the acting, the direction, the cinematography, everything just works. By the way, any of you who might still think of Jeff Daniels in Dumb and Dumber or Michelle Dockery in Downton Abbey will barely recognize them here. Daniels is as good in this as he was in the HBO series The Newsroom, and that's saying a lot.
My other recent discovery was a novel called Artemis, by Andy Weir (who also write The Martian). I loved The Martian--book and movie--and I thought this second novel was just as good. The protagonist, a young woman named Jasmine (Jazz) Bashara, is as tough and resourceful as any hero/heroine I've seen in a long time, and outrageous as well. At the start of the book Jazz is a wannabe tour-guide for some of the attractions around Artemis, the first and only city on the moon, and since she can't seem to pass the test to become a guide she makes a living smuggling certain items when they arrive from Earth to her customers here in space. Long story short, because of her lack of funds and need for employment she finds herself a part of a get-rich-quick scheme that instead gets her into deep trouble, including dealing with hitmen who are sent from Earth sort of like the four gunmen in High Noon. You'll wind up cheering her on, while you learn (or at least I did) a lot about life on the Final Frontier.
That's my sermon for today. And don't get me wrong, I've watched a lot of other good movies lately--Wind River, Baby Driver, Arrival, Logan Lucky, Gerald's Game, Hell or High Water, No Escape, Wonder Woman, Bushwick, Mudbound, The Last Jedi, Get Out, Blackway, Bullet Head, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri--and I've read some other good novels too--The Cuban Affair, The Fireman, The Girl from Venice, Dragon Teeth, Home, Gwendy's Button Box, World Gone By, Blackjack, Mississippi Blood, Sleeping Beauties, Goldeline, Fierce Kingdom, El Paso, The Midnight Line, Paradise Sky, The Big Finish, A Column of Fire, etc.--but I believe these two stories were as good as any of them, and better than most. If any of you have seen Godless, or read Artemis, please pass along your thoughts.
I also wouldn't mind some recommendations. I've been devouring collections of short stories lately, mainly those by Bill Pronzini, Charles Beaumont, Ray Bradbury, John Cheever, Richard Matheson, Fredric Brown, Annie Proulx, and (believe it or not) Tom Hanks. I need to get back into some novels.
Meanwhile, happy reading, and viewing.
31 March 2018
13 November 2017
by Jan Grape
by Jan Grape
When did I get so behind on reading and writing reviews of books that I said I would review? Heaven only knows and I haven't heard from an Angel with an answer either. Think my line to beyond the clouds has somehow been broken. Or maybe I was late paying my heavenly mobile bill.
I know when I got back from my awesome trip to Nashville then to Ft Worth to visit my son and his family, Then to my sister's 50th Wedding Anniversary party. I settled in back here at home and had every intention of taking care of business.
But I had to attend my 60th high school reunion out in Post Texas. Which was great fun and I saw some people I had not seen in 60 years and others who had been without my crazy self only 25 or 30 years.
At any rate, there were still wonderful books to be read and written about when I got home. I just somehow got busy reading but not reviewing.
Think I must start with the one I read quite awhile ago.
Human Remains by Melissa Yi, one of our own SleuthSayers. My first introduction to Dr. Hope Sze was in Stockholm Syndrome. both published by Windtree Press in the USA. Dr. Sze is a fully drawn character who draws you into the medical mileau as well as into the mystery. In the beginning of Human Remains, I was a bit petrubed with the idea that Hope was in love with two men. One she had left behind in Montreal, Dr. John Tucker where she had been taken in hostage but had survived. The other man, Ryan Wun, her first love, she found again as she begins working in a stem cell lab.
Almost immediately Hope and Ryan and Ryan's new puppy Roxy stumble over a human body with a black bag taped over the head. She knew she shouldn't touch a crime scene but she is a doctor, well, a resident doctor but still. She felt for the radial pulse at the wrist. While still deciding about removing the black bag the police arrive and by then Dr. Hope has decided to do CPR.
There's no way you can put the book down from that opening and soon you are caught up in the who and why. Along with the ongoing story of Dr. Hope Sze dealing with her love life.
Some writers write awesome, thrilling books and the absolute best are written by Bill Pronzini. His early summer rrlease of new Nameless Detective book, titled, End Game, fills my heart with eager anticipation.. Nameless and Bill don't let me down.
Namless gets a new client, James Cahill whose wife Alice has disappeared. Alice has a strong agoraphobia and never ventures outside. Soon Namless is suspecting his client, With more twist and turns to leave you up most of the night, you can understand the suspicions that Nameless has.
Jake Runyon, the field operative in Nameless' office comes up with a strange case of his own. Philip Dennison has been found dead in a remote cabin in the Sierras. With all the windows locked and the door barred from the inside Dennison's death is ruled an accident. However, Dennison's wife believes her husband was murdered and wants Jake to find out if there was someone else in the remost cabin with her husband. Even if it means heartbreak.
This is one you have trouble stopping long enough to eat or even check Facebook. You have to read just one more chapter.
Next on my reading stack was Dead To Begin With by Bill Crider.
Beginning a new Sheriff Dan Rhodes book is like slipping into your most comfortable pair of boots, sitting down in a comfortable recliner and reading about your old friend.
Dan Rhodes is Sheriff of Clearview, Texas, small town Texas, much like the town where I grew up. And with the wonderful quirky characters who inhabit the area, including Hack Jansen, the dispatcher, who calls the Sheriff to report that Jake Marley is dead.
There is no way you'll be disappointed.
Crider sets up an almost impossible murder scenario. Marley is a town's rich beyond your dreams, recluse that no one has seen in many years except late night at WalMart or going through the Dairy Queen drive-thru. He didn't attend church nor have any friends. All his immediate family was dead. The out-lying kin had moved away to spend their black gold money in other countries like California, or Florida or the Bahamas.
But he had taken a sudden interest in the Clearview Opera House and wanted in renovated and a play presented there. Marley had been supervising the project but had fallen to his death from a ladder or the walkway high up above the lights. No one was sure. Of course, Dan Rhodes was the logical person to solve the crazy unsolvable puzzle.
As usual you are happy to spend time in Sheriff Rhodes' world and if you haven't read Crider's books before then, get busy and download or buy them. You'll be glad you did.
That's all for now, folks. The others will have to wait until next time.
17 August 2015
by Jan Grape
Have you ever stolen a idea for a story or book from another writer? No. Of course not, that's plagiarism, you say. You are exactly right. However, we all know in reality there are only thirty-six literary plots. Or maybe only twenty. Or perhaps only seven.
- Wo/man v nature
- Wo/man v wo/man
- Wo/man v the environment
- Wo/man v machine/technology
- Wo/man v the supernatural
- Wo/man v self
- Wo/man v God/religion
I could continue with twenty master plots like quest, adventure, pursuit, escape, revenge, love, sacrifice… but you all get the idea. Maybe it is true but writers and even readers know that it's the shading, the ins and outs, the grays bleeding into the black and white that we all turn to as we write. We read something that we consider good book or story and when we finish the story or book we sometimes say to our self, I like that story idea or plot and then we wonder how we might have written it.
I've tried to remember when a story inspired me so that I used some "creative plagiarism" to write a story. I can only remember one instance although I imagine there could be more. The only similarity came when I read a Bill Pronzini short story in an anthology. I can't tell you the story's name or the anthology or collection the story was in. I only remember there was a hit and run accident. And a hit and run accident was the only thing I used in my short story "The Man In The Red Flannel Suit." That was a Christmas story published in an anthology titled SANTA CLUES. I do remember at the time my story idea was more or less going along with Bill's story, but by the time I got that idea inkling off the back burner it was entirely different from what I originally thought. The only thing left was the hit and run and that accident was altogether a different animal.
The only two other "creative plagiarism" stories came from songs. One song written and sung by Kenny Rogers called "Scarlett" and was about a young man falling in love with an exotic dancer. One night he goes into the club and Scarlett is gone. It breaks his heart because his fantasy was that she loved him. The nightclub people can't tell him where Scarlett has gone because dancers come and go, always looking for brighter lights.
Scarlett rattled around in my brain for two or three years and one day popped up as a short story, titled "Scarlett Fever" in the DEADLY ALLIES anthology. It's still one of my favorite short stories. The other story inspired by a song is titled "The Confession." It was published in the MURDER HERE, MURDER THERE anthology. Since I personally knew the singer/songwriter, Thomas Michael Riley, he gave me permission to use as much or as little of the song as I wanted. It was a great "what if" idea.
If any if you have used any "Creative Plagiarism" ideas you may confess them to me. I won't tell anyone, I promise.