The Last Dickens

Matthew Pearl continues to mine the vein he struck six years ago with THE DANTE CLUB, and then THE POE SHADOW, with his latest literary/historical mystery, THE LAST DICKENS. And, as the title suggests, this go-round he takes on another Big Kahuna of English Literature, Charles Dickens, and his unfinished final novel, THE MYSTERY OF EDWIN DROOD. There is quite a lot to admire about this latest from Pearl, but not without its price.

The story takes place mostly in 1870, when word of the death of Charles Dickens reaches Boston and the offices of his American publisher, Fields & Osgood. Dickens previously completed and published the first six installments of his latest novel, and the world awaits the final chapters that promise to resolve the mystery of the book’s title character. James Osgood, the publishing firm’s young partner, sends trusted clerk Daniel Sands to the shipping docks to receive the pages as they arrive from England. But then Daniel is found dead, and the manuscript is missing.

Read more »

Shivers V

For seven years, Cemetery Dance’s has kept readers abreast of the best in modern horror short fiction with the Richard Chizmar-edited SHIVERS anthology series. After a short delay that derailed the franchise’s annual publication, SHIVERS V is now out, and definitely worth the wait.

It doesn’t take long to get properly unsettled, either, once Sarah Langan relates a road-tripping couple’s backseat encounter with “The Burn Victim,” an unwitting passenger who’s awfully messy after having his skin burnt raw by the desert sun. However, the cringes it induces are nothing compared to those generated by the acts of perversion in Mick Garris’ “Forever Gramma.” It’s worth repeating: The guy’s talents are best suited to the printed page, not the silver screen.

Read more »

Q&A with SHADOWS IN THE MIST’s Brian Moreland

Most self-published books are self-published for a reason: Because no one else wants them. Brian Moreland’s SHADOWS IN THE MIST is an exception. After a successful run on its own in 2006, the occult horror thriller got a second chance last fall when Berkley issued it as a paperback original. Moreland tells BOOKGASM how the book that sits on the shelves today got there, and the changes it encountered along the way.

BOOKGASM: Not a ton of novels get a second chance at being published by the majors after being published by the minors. What is it about SHADOWS IN THE MIST that made it worthy?

MORELAND: I think it was a combination of hard work, persistence and luck. I had written a World War II thriller about the Nazis and the occult that I was passionate about getting published. After years of rejections from literary agents, I decided to put the destiny of my writing career into my own hands.

Read more »

SEARCH ME >> 4.09

A sampling of some of the bizarro search terms with (thankfully) low numbers that brought people to BOOKGASM over the last 30ish days:

• reading is annoying
• phone call blackmail will kill book
• how can i get excited about my life
• how to become completely lame
• rabid nun

Read more »

Did YOU Win 6 Earth Day Titles?

Hope everyone had a good Earth Day last week. Remember, we have five full sets of six earthy titles from Hachette Book Group to give away in celebration, including IS IT JUST ME OR IS EVERYTHING SHIT?: INSANELY ANNOYING MODERN THINGS by Steve Lowe, Alan McArthur and Brendan Hay, and Taylor Clark’s STARBUCKED: A DOUBLE TALL TALE OF CAFFEINE, COMMERCE, AND CULTURE.

Here’s who’s getting the goods:
• Carol Grubbs of Zephyrhills, Fla.
• Carol Mintz of Monroeville, Pa.
• Gerald Tilley of Decatur, Ill.
• Vanessa Dow of Smiths Falls, Ontario
• Amanda Brown of Anderson, Ind.

Everyone else, buy them at Amazon.

Enemies & Allies

Superman and Batman have been pals for so long, we take that friendship for granted. So Kevin J. Anderson uses his novel ENEMIES & ALLIES to go back and imagine how the Man of Steel and the Dark Knight might have met initially. It didn’t exactly start off on the right foot … but the book sure does!

Set in the Cold War (and thus, not too terribly long after the characters’ actual creations), Superman is so new to the scene that he hasn’t yet been given that nickname. Batman, meanwhile, is still considered a public menace, a vigilante — despite a real knack for taking the lowest of the low off Gotham City’s mean streets.

Read more »

A Matter of Justice

There’s good news and bad news about A MATTER OF JUSTICE by Charles Todd, the 11th in a series of novels featuring Inspector Ian Rutledge. First, the good news: It’s an interesting series. In World War I, Rutledge was forced to execute a man for insubordination, and the ghost of that man follows Rutledge around in 1920 Britain, haunting him and offering his own opinions on Rutledge’s investigations. The mother-and-son team that writes as Todd handles this quirk most delicately, never overplaying the effect, and using it to provide insight into Rutledge’s heart and soul.

The plot is solid, involving a monstrous act of betrayal and brutality in the Boer War of 1902, and an equally monstrous plan for revenge almost 20 years later. The action and dialogue are realistic, and there’s some tremendous verbal fencing between Rutledge and Padgett, the local inspector. The depiction of dogged police work is also enjoyable, as we see every step of Rutledge’s investigation.

Read more »

BULLETS, BROADS, BLACKMAIL & BOMBS: The Column at the End of the Apocalypse

bullets broads blackmail and bombsEnough of this highbrow reading! Let’s get to basics! When I say “basics,” I mean completely mindless garbage that comes from one particular publisher. Yes, folks, it’s an all-Gold Eagle column, featuring two series set in the weird world of the post-apocalyptic future these authors both thought were coming. It’s 2009 and everything stills seems to be all right — no corporate wars or giant asteroids laying destruction. In other words, these books are providing a much-needed brain enema.

SURVIVAL 2000: RENEGADE WAR by James McPhee — Two years after reading the first book in this trilogy, I finally got my hands on the other two. To bring people up to speed, which the 1991 book does really well in the first chapter, is that an asteroid has hit Earth in various locations, making the planet into a total wasteland.

Read more »

Boneman’s Daughters

Moving further away from the restraints of straight Christian fiction toward the mainstream has done Ted Dekker good; BONEMAN’S DAUGHTERS might be his most gripping thriller yet. If you can finish it, that is — those with aversions to children in peril and the act of breaking bones will find it difficult to stomach.

Ryan Evans is a military intelligence officer whose troop is sabotaged while in Iraq. When he returns to consciousness, a man named Kahlid wants revenge for his children being killed by American intervention. He intended to extract it by presenting Ryan with a choice: Either kill an innocent child with a sledgehammer on video for all the world to see, or give up the whereabouts of his own wife and daughter so Kahlid can do the same to them.

Read more »

Mixed Blood

At the risk of hyperbole, it should be stated flat-out that MIXED BLOOD by Roger Smith is one of the most impressive thrillers you are likely to read this year. It’s a seething story of desperate characters doing equally desperate and violent things in a setting most of us know only from the evening news. And even more impressive is the fact that it’s his first novel.

A warm, windy Cape Town, South Africa evening is suddenly turned into a nightmare when two young, drug-addled gang-bangers with guns break into the home of Jack Burns, his 4-year-old son and his pregnant wife. In a split second, Burns overtakes the home invaders and kills them both in front of his family — a bad enough situation for anyone, but worse when you consider that he and his family are hiding from the law in Cape Town.

Read more »

Next Page »