Sunday, October 26, 2008

Reading, Writing and Packing

It’s been too long since I’ve talked about books here.

Ed Lee’s new novel, Brides of the Impaler, is both a departure from what most fans expect from Lee, and a bloodsucking success. Lee’s setting is uber-urban: a midtown New York populated by excess-addicted yuppies, calloused cops and crackhead whores. Add to the mix an artifact that may contain the spirit of Dracula, and this book’s off to the races. Lee proves he can deliver the scares in the back woods and the big city. And there’s plenty of sex and gore to satisfy longtime fans of Lee.

The Given Day is another departure, this time from Dennis LeHane, author of Gone Baby Gone and Mystic River. Set in Boston, at the end of the first World War, this epic encompasses racism, baseball, the influenza epidemic, police corruption, labor unions, immigration and the devastating Boston police strike. It’s a potboiler and a page turner, with writing that is, in turns, literary and pulpish. My only question is: will Scorcese be directing the movie?

A racially-charged incident from 1972 propels The Turnaround by George Pelecanos. Three white teens drive into a black neighborhood. Epithets are shouted, violence ensues, and one of the teens is killed. In the present, Pelecanos catches up with the survivors of the incident. Some have prospered. Others haven’t done so well. When Pelecanos finally brings the survivors together, each is looking for something different: forgiveness, redemption, even payback. The story concludes in a way that is surprising and moving. Possibly Pelecanos’ best novel to date.


I had a story accepted for an anthology this week. One more commitment out of the way. I’m trying to finish another promised piece this week, before we head out of town.


We’re going to a resort in Mexico next week. I’ll be out of the country on election day, and will miss voting for the first time since I was 18.

Norma and I went to our courthouse Friday to cast our absentee ballots. The election officials told us that absentee turnout was huge, and they hoped the number of ballots cast on election day would be record-setting. So do I. In the past, a 30% voter turn out in Kentucky has been considered good. Oh, really? 70% percent of the citizenry stays home and that’s good thing? If this election causes more people to participate in the process, regardless of who they vote for, that’s a victory.

Now I have to face my greatest challenge of the year: what books to pack.

Hardcovers are out. Since I have to pay if my bag is over fifty pounds, I’m not taking any chances. I can stuff more paperbacks into my carry-on.

At the moment, I’m leaning toward a few Hard Case Crime novels, a couple of Leisure paperbacks and the last few issues of Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine. That’s subject to change, of course. In fact, I’ll probably be adjusting the book lineup on the way to the airport. I’m sure my fellow book lovers will understand.

The beach, books, no election commercials and unlimited alcohol? Just what the doctor ordered.

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