Pariah

pariahFollowing up the critically acclaimed SMALL CRIMES, Dave Zeltserman had to prove that book was not some sort of fluke. PARIAH proves that CRIMES was no fluke, even surpassing that previous novel in leaps and bounds, to the point that Zeltserman should be considered the new king of Boston crime. In my eyes, the last writer who held that title was George V. Higgins.

PARIAH is sure to make a good portion of Boston residents angry, since Zeltserman never one to pull a punch, coming up with a story that involves the South Boston Irish mob. We follow Kyle Nevin, who was once the right hand of local boss Red Mahoney, himself a thinly disguised version of James “Whitey” Bulger — so thin that it seems Saran Wrap was keeping it a secret.

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Ball Peen Hammer

ballpeenhammerYes, BALL PEEN HAMMER is yet another post-apocalyptic graphic novel, which means it deals with a mysterious virus, the breakdown of society and the struggle to hold on to one’s humanity. But it’s not all the same ol’ same ol’. For one thing, there’s the introduction of a strange, hulking character who tattoos survivors with a number, only to come back later to hit them in the head with the tool of the title.

It’s also less about what happened and more about how those left are affected (and infected, as the case may be). Two storylines are followed, one of a guitarist whose body is so racked with infection that he soaks his feet in bleach. The other is of a pretty young girl who once spent the night with him, and now is knocked up, so she’s desperately seeking him.

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BULLETS, BROADS, BLACKMAIL & BOMBS >> September Gurls

bullets broads blackmail and bombsZeldaThis being the last column for September, I could not pass up using that Big Star song for the title. Plus, all three books not only share the same theme of women, but also the same author: Carter Brown. Mainly because I can fly through his books in no time flat. (Fun fact: Put together, all three books still come under the page count for the first book of next week’s column.) So let’s have fun with my favorite Australian author who likes to write about the dames, all featuring great covers from Robert McGinnis.

ZELDA by Carter Brown — Another in the Rick Holman series that all take place in the glitzy world of Hollywood, this 1961 novel actually has more to do with an Agatha Christie motif than the globetrotting, hard drinking and constant bedding that usually goes on.

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Vampire a Go-Go

vampireagogoYou’re probably thinking, “Aw, geez! Not another freakin’ vampire novel!” But look again. It’s got “a go-go” in the title. More importantly, it’s by Victor Gischler. And that means we’ve got something altogether different here. Sure enough, VAMPIRE A GO-GO, the follow-up to his excellent GO-GO GIRLS OF THE APOCALYSPE, is not only a loving spoof of the horror genre, but also one of the cleverest, funniest and finest novels to come along in a long time.

The central character is Allen Cabbot, a graduate student at Gothic State University. Personal distractions have caused his grades to slip of late, but his skills at research are well-known, so he is given a chance to save his academic career by assisting faculty member Dr. Evergreen’s study of Kafka in the Czech Republic.

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D.D. Murphry, Secret Policeman

ddmurpheyFrom the freakish illustration on the front cover, to the summary on the back cover, and everything in between, Alan M. Clark and Elizabeth Massie’s D.D. MURPHRY, SECRET POLICEMAN left me confused.

The collaboration by authors Alan M. Clark and Elizabeth Massie claims to be “a clever tale told with a dexterity that allows for a gritty, noir feel, insight into the frailty of the human mind and the ability to see the absurdity in it all.” They also describe the lead character as a hero and a villain and that I was supposed to be cringing while I laughed and rooted him on.

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Traffic: Why We Drive the Way We Do (and What It Says About Us)

trafficWhether you’re in the car for two minutes or two hours a day, odds are that traffic is your biggest complaint of driving. It’s a necessary evil, and one you’ll never look at the same way again after navigating Tom Vanderbilt’s TRAFFIC: WHY WE DRIVE THE WAY WE DO (AND WHAT IT SAYS ABOUT US), the bestseller newly available in paperback.

Given the dictionary definition of “traffic” — being “movement” — Vanderbilt points out the irony in using the word to describe its opposite. Perhaps that’s because gridlock and slow-moving drivers have become the standard. With this book, you’ll find out why that is, and what — if anything — you can do about it.

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BOOK WHORE >> 9.29.09

book whoreShe’s back, pimpin’ out notable new releases to place on your radar!

ghostmachineGHOST IN THE MACHINE by Patrick Carman — Strange things are happening in Skeleton Creek … and Ryan and Sarah are trying to find out why. Ryan writes down everything in his journal, and Sarah records everything on her videocam. The two move deeper into the mystery they’ve uncovered, determined to discover the secrets buried in Skeleton Creek, in the conclusion to Patrick Carman’s series. In this groundbreaking format, the story is broken into two parts: Ryan’s text in the book, and Sarah’s videos on a special website, with links and passwords given throughout the book.

capitoloffenseCAPITOL OFFENSE by William Berhardt — Professor Dennis Thomas arrives at the law office of Ben Kincaid with a bizarre request: Thomas wants to know if Kincaid can help him beat a murder charge … of a killing yet to happen. The professor’s intended victim: a Tulsa cop who had refused to authorize a search for Thomas’ missing wife. For seven days, Joslyn Thomas had lain in the twisted wreckage of her car, dying a horrifically slow death in an isolated ravine. Now, insane with grief, Thomas wants to kill Det. Christopher Sentz. Kincaid warns him not to, but that very same day, someone fires seven bullets into the police officer. Suddenly, Kincaid’s conversation with Thomas is privileged and Thomas is begging Kincaid to defend him. Against all advice, he decides to represent this troubled man in the center of a media and political firestorm.

dawnbreakerDAWNBREAKER by Jocelynn Drake — The dawn brings new terror for the creatures of the night. Those of her race fear Mira for the lethal fire she bends to her will — a power unique among nightwalkers, both a gift … and a curse. The naturi despise Mira for what she is, as they prepare the final sacrifice that will destroy the barriers between the worlds. And once the naturi are unchained, blood, chaos and horror will reign supreme on Earth. Mira can trust only Danaus, the more-than-mortal vampire slayer, though he is sworn to destroy her kind. And now, as the day approaches when titanic forces will duel under cover of darkness, destiny draws them toward an apocalyptic confrontation at Machu Picchu. But all is not lost, for a wild card has been dealt to them: a rogue enemy princess who can change the balance of power and turn the dread tide.

suckstobemeSUCKS TO BE ME: THE ALL-TRUE CONFESSIONS OF MINA HAMILTON, TEEN VAMPIRE (MAYBE) by Kimberly Pauley — Mina Hamilton’s parents want her dead. (Or undead, to be precise.) They’re vampires, and like it or not, Mina must decide whether to become a vampire herself. But Mina’s more interested in hanging out with best friend Serena and trying to catch the eye of the too-hot-for-high-school Nathan Able than in the vampire training classes she’s being forced to take. How’s a girl supposed to find the perfect prom date and pass third-year French when her mom and dad are breathing down her neck — literally?

Buy them at Amazon.

Julian Comstock: A Story of 22nd-Century America

juliancomstockRobert Charles Wilson’s books have been on my “must buy” list since he wrote THE CHRONOLITHS in 2002, and he’s gotten successively better without becoming a corporate retread machine. The ties of family, friendship and love in its infinite variations are central themes in his work. JULIAN COMSTOCK: A STORY OF 22ND-CENTURY AMERICA is no exception; it’s also Wilson’s best book yet.

As the title explains, JULIAN COMSTOCK is set in 22nd-century America, a post-oil land run as an empire by an emperor whose palace is New York’s Central Park. America has reverted to a pseudo 19th-century level of technology, and the culture has regressed to 19th-century norms and educational levels, as well. Most science is banned by the religious police, known as the Dominion, and any forbidden knowledge — textbooks, movies, history — is either destroyed or locked away from the rest of humanity.

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Seattle Noir

seattlenoirThe Pacific Northwest is a perfect setting for Akashic’s noir anthology series, especially with the history lesson that SEATTLE NOIR editor Curt Colbert provides readers about his city, which he says has always had one foot in the bad side of things. Even though it’s called the Emerald City, there is still plenty of sludge and muck to dirty things up.

SEATTLE NOIR is separated into four themed sections: “Gone South,” “What Comes Around,” “Love Is a Four-Letter Word” and “To The Limits.” It has a few stumbling blocks, but nothing that will truly derail someone from enjoying it; it’s just that some stories don’t mesh with the noir theme.

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Love to Love You Bradys: The Bizarre Story of The Brady Bunch Variety Hour

lovebradysBarry Williams already gave us the definitive story behind TV’s classic THE BRADY BUNCH with his memoir, GROWING UP BRADY. Now, its Cindy, Susan Olsen — with Ted Nichelson and Lisa Sutton — documents the chapter of Brady history you didn’t want to know everything about, in LOVE TO LOVE YOU BRADYS: THE BIZARRE STORY OF THE BRADY BUNCH VARIETY HOUR.

At least, you thought you didn’t want to know everything about it. Instead, you’ll be glad you did … not the least of which because it will keep you from ever having to watch the actual, horrible, train wreck of a series whose every misguided, misbegotten step it covers.

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