3 New Entertainment Titles

Similar in structure to fellow McFarland & Company releases Now a Terrifying Motion Picture! and Classic Horror Films and the Literature That Inspired Them, yet by a different author, Ron Miller’s Mystery Classics on Film: The Adaptation of 65 Novels and Stories provides a thorough breakdown of the changes that short stories and novels have undergone on their path from the page to 24 frames per second. Tackling works nearly as old as cinema itself and as recent as the Tom Cruise vehicle Jack Reacher, Miller (formerly a syndicated columnist on the topic of the telly) mines a wealth of whodunits for this multimedia survey, reviewing both the source material and the resulting movie with equal devotion and effectiveness. While several bona fide classics are covered — e.g., Alfred Hitchcock’s Rebecca and John Huston’s The Maltese Falcon — Miller makes his work more interesting by deviating often from the usual suspects, most obviously in eschewing the Agatha Christie adaptations And Then There Were None and Murder on the Orient Express for … What Mrs. McGillicuddy Saw. All this, plus Sherlock Holmes, Nancy Drew, Mike Hammer, Auguste Dupin and even that lovable serial killer, Dexter Morgan.

Few reads can be as addictive as the oral history, and having written ones on SNL and ESPN, James Andrew Miller is arguably a master of them. Now he turns his attention to another set of initials, CAA, in Powerhouse: The Untold Story of Hollywood’s Creative Artists Agency. A 2016 release now in paperback from Custom House, the brick of a book (now with additional material, no less) traces the unlikely rise of CAA from the ashes of five disenchanted William Morris agents to a near-monopoly on the entertainment industry as a whole. Along the way, a classic Cain and Abel story builds between its two most powerful founders, Mike Ovitz and Ron Meyer, but their fallout occurs in the second act; Powerhouse loses its luster after that, arguing for an earlier ending. Absolutely packed with gossip and dozens of unreliable narrators, Powerhouse offers both a business lesson in innovation and a cautionary tale of hubris.

Not for nothing does Robert Hofler’s latest biography, Money, Murder, and Dominick Dunne: A Life in Several Acts, sport chapter titles of pairs, because his jack-of-all-trades subject is a textbook study in duality — and far more than mere separation of the public and private. Although a married (for a time) man with children, Dunne long enjoyed the company of his own gender, via anonymous restroom encounters and even skipping his father’s wake for a backseat coupling. Hofler plays these details not for gossip’s sake, but in crafting a full portrait of a very complex man — one who forever wrestled with guilt and, following the slaying of his daughter, Poltergeist actress Dominique Dunne, turned guilt of another kind into a second-act career as reporter of cause célèbre trials, most notoriously the O.J. Simpson circus. Whether you know Dunne from that journalism work, from the movies he produced (e.g., The Boys in the Band, The Panic in Needle Park) or from the high-society novels he wrote and their tony television adaptations (The Two Mrs. Grenvilles), Hofler — the author behind one of my all-time favorite cultural histories, 2014’s Sexplosion — does one helluva job documenting the life of one helluva interesting guy. —Rod Lott

Get them at Amazon.

Murder in Saint-Germain

With MURDER IN SAINT-GERMAIN, author Cara Black gives us her 17th (17th!) novel featuring Aimée Leduc, a private investigator handling discreet cases in the heart of France.

Two cases present themselves to Ms. Leduc. Her security firm is working on contract at an art institute, firming up the institution’s security protocols and handling their IT needs. One of the instructors is being blackmailed and wants Leduc to find out who is doing the blackmailing. But he wants everything to be so discreet it’s hard to get useful details out of him to solve the case.

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Hardboiled, Noir and Gold Medals: Essays on Crime Fiction Writers from the ’50s through the ’90s

Why would you want to read HARDBOILED, NOIR AND GOLD MEDALS, the collection of essays and introductions by Rick Ollerman – a longtime contributor to the classic crime fiction republished fiction by Stark House Press? Several reasons, really. But mostly because Ollerman’s knowledge and enthusiasm for the authors and styles he writes about shines through in ways that make these articles as entertaining as they are informative.

Then there is the structure of this collection. Ollerman could have simply assembled the various introductions he has provided over the years in chronological order. But Ollerman, a novelist as well as a critic, realized how dull this would be.

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All the Birds in the Sky

Patricia Delfine and Laurence Armstead are the Romeo and Juliet of Charlie Jane Anders’ 2016 novel, ALL THE BIRDS IN THE SKY, now published in trade paperback. But rather than belonging to two warring families, these star-crossed lovers are from the co-existing future worlds of magic and science. Their destines are revealed to us only after we watch them grow from adolescence to adulthood.

As a child, Patricia knew she was different from other children when she discovered she could talk to birds. Similarly Laurence knew he was different when he invented a wristwatch time machine that transported him a few seconds into the future.
These two young outcasts become friends at school, eating their lunch together away from the other kids.

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Opening Wednesday at a Theater or Drive-In Near You: The Shadow Cinema of the American ’70s

Entire books have been written about the revolutionary wave of American cinema in the 1970s — most notably Peter Biskind’s seminal Easy Riders, Raging Bulls — but New York-based journalist Charles Taylor isn’t interested in rehashing those stories of the walloping impact and lasting legacy of The Godfather, Jaws, et al. Instead, he casts his critical eye to the pictures that fell through the decade’s cracks, curating for delicate dissection 15 choice B movies — some forgotten, others still admired, all sharing “an air of disreputability.”

The slim, comfy volume that results, Opening Wednesday at a Theater or Drive-In Near You: The Shadow Cinema of the American ’70s, is the year’s most rewarding film read thus far.

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The Vinyl Detective: The Run-Out Groove

In The Vinyl Detective series, author Andrew Cartmel has a wonderful premise. His nameless character (he is referred to as The Vinyl Detective by others and the books are written from a first-person point of view) collects rare records and is an expert at finding them.

The first book in the series, WRITTEN IN DEAD WAX, had our hero search for a rare record that a wealthy client desired. The second book, THE RUN-OUT GROOVE, concerns a fictional 1960s rock band named Valerian.

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The Forgotten Girl

Fantasy author Rio Youers’s latest, THE FORGOTTEN GIRL, combines elements of the supernatural with mystery in a surprisingly satisfying blend that is as thought-provoking as it is entertaining.

The protagonist, Harvey Anderson, enjoys a peaceful life as a street performer in New Jersey. Then one day Harvey is abducted and brutally beaten by a group of thugs. The thugs and their leader, known only as “the spider” demand Harvey tell them the whereabouts of Harvey’s girlfriend, Sally Starling.

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Black Mad Wheel

The Danes are former WWII Army musicians turned mildly successful civilian band. It’s 1957 Detroit, and with several mid-list hits under their belt, the band is feeling a stagnation they strive to overcome by drinking too much, and producing albums by less experienced, less talented groups. Then one day, the Army comes calling with an offer: travel to the African desert and try to locate the source of a mysterious sound. Not just any ordinary sound, however, as this particular one can render weapons useless and incapacitate men.

It sounds a little like “Indiana Jones and the Lost Horn of Jericho.” But no, BLACK MAD WHEEL by Josh Malerman is better than that hackneyed premise.

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The Chalk Pit

Elly Griffiths’ series of mysteries featuring forensic archaeologist Ruth Galloway has now extended to nine books, with the latest being THE CHALK PIT. She also writes another series, Magic Men, now up to three titles. Thankfully, her prolific outpouring has done nothing to harm the characters in the series, the plots, or the writing style. Remarkably, she is one of the few mystery authors I can think of who really lets her characters grow and change, sometimes quite drastically, over the course of the series. It’s refreshing and keeps the reader on his or her toes.

In this latest installment, bones are found in one of the chalk mining tunnels that undercut the city of Norwich. The bones have been boiled and they are of recent origin, ten, maybe fifty years old. Boiled bones? Cannibalism? It’s certainly murder.

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Forever and a Death

Hard Case Crime is promoting FOREVER AND A DEATH as both the Donald E. Westlake novel that was never before published and the James Bond movie that was never made. So explanations are in order.

In the mid 1970s the producers of the long-running James Bond movie franchise hired crime novelist Donald E. Westlake to come up with a story for the next Bond movie. Westlake developed a story based on what was then the recent transferal of Hong Kong back to the Chinese after decades of British rule. But political concerns intervened and the movie was never made. Westlake then took his idea and made it into a thriller novel that was never published during his life.

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