Nineteen Eighty-Three

Finishing David Peace’s NINETEEN EIGHTY-THREE was no easy task, and even now, I’m not quite sure how I feel about it. The fourth in his “Red Riding Quartet” (following NINETEEN SEVENTY-FOUR, NINETEEN SEVENTY-SEVEN and NINETEEN EIGHTY), it certainly satisfies any reader seeking a mystery, horror or crime novel, but having not read the first three books in the series, I finished feeling thoroughly lost.

The novel centers around three principal characters: Maurice Jobson (“The Owl”), a corrupt police inspector; John Piggott, a local lawyer; and BJ, a local skinhead. Peace’s unique writing style is apparent within the first three chapters, as each character’s story is told from a different narrative perspective, with Jobson in the first person, Piggott in the second, and BJ referring to himself in an odd, grammatically incorrect third person.

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Our Hero: Superman on Earth

If there’s anyone I trust to deliver a smart, satisfying, book-length essay on the pop-culture impact of Krypton’s most famous orphan, it’s Tom De Haven, whose brilliant 2005 novel, IT’S SUPERMAN!, remains a personal favorite. The author discusses the Man of Steel in OUR HERO: SUPERMAN ON EARTH.

Over a hair more than 200 pages, De Haven takes us on an illustrated journey through Superman’s history — not just the comics, but TV, movies, Broadway and beyond. It’s a story that has been told many times before, but never through this writer’s eye. He brings his own personal observations to the table, making the book feel like a long lunchtime conversation with a fellow comic-book geek. Except one who really, really knows his stuff. —Rod Lott

Buy it at Amazon.

OTHER BOOKGASM REVIEWS OF THIS AUTHOR:
IT’S SUPERMAN! by Tom De Haven

BULLETS, BROADS, BLACKMAIL & BOMBS >> Dollars and Cents

bullets broads blackmail and bombsI’ve got 90,000 pounds in my pajamas. I’ve got 40,000 French francs in my fridge. I’ve got lots of lovely lire. Now, the deutschmark’s getting dearer, and my dollar bills would buy the Brooklyn Bridge. There is nothing quite as wonderful as money. There is nothing quite as beautiful as cash. That intro is for all the comedy geeks out there, but, yes, this column is all about coins, dollars, silver and gold.

MAKING MONEY by Terry Pratchett — Let;s see: a dog in charge of a bank, lecherous ghosts, golems galore, and a cameo from the city watch. All these can only mean one thing: another laugh-out-loud book set on Discworld. This 2007 title is the second in the series that started with GOING POSTAL.

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The Devil and Sherlock Holmes: Tales of Murder, Madness, and Obsession

Good to know THE LOST CITY OF Z was no fluke! David Grann’s follow-up, THE DEVIL AND SHERLOCK HOLMES: TALES OF MURDER, MADNESS, AND OBSESSION, may be a compilation of previously published articles, but damn, what articles! Fans of creative nonfiction will be pleased a dozen times over.

It begins with “Mysterious Circumstances,” a real-life whodunit involving the death of Richard Lancelyn Green, one of the world’s foremost experts on Sherlock Holmes. He was found dead in his home after warning friends someone was after him, because of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s rare papers he had seen. It’s a mystery worthy of Doyle himself, and the ending is one you’re not likely to guess.

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5 Incredibly Strange Sherlock Holmes Books

Robert Downey Jr.’s blockbuster SHERLOCK HOLMES hits DVD today. Remember when, before anyone ever saw it, the Internet was ablaze with fury for director Guy Ritchie daring to deliver an action-hero take on Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s detective? Well, that treatment’s not even close to being among the strangest. Here are five unusual Holmes books that certainly qualify.

SHERLOCK HOLMES AND THE UNDERPANTS OF DEATH by Chris Wood — With stories like “The Mystery of the Hidden Turd” and “The Adventure of the Lingering Stench,” you’d think this collection goes for the scatological laugh. And you’d be correct, but that’s not all there is to it. Wood has an infectious wit in these sly parodies, and the re-captioned Sidney Paget illustrations are a hoot.

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BOOKS 2 FILM >> The Spider Woman / Sherlock Holmes and the Voice of Terror

books to filmAs the seventh in the 14-film series that paired Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce as Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson, 1944’s THE SPIDER WOMAN is one of the most purely entertaining. It’s also as close as the franchise got to adapting Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s “The Adventure of the Speckled Band” story.

In a lively opening montage, London is abuzz about the rash of “Pyjama Suicides,” so named because people have suddenly killed themselves in the middle of the night, with neither rhyme no reason. But as Holmes notes, suicides are apt to leave notes, which these unfortunate souls didn’t, so he suspects murder, my dear Watson, murder.

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Worst Sherlock Holmes Pun Ever

This Oklahoma City spot is now out of business, thanks to its involvement in a Ponzi scheme. Fun fact: The name of the guy filing motions for the sale of Sure Lock’s assets? Moriarty! —Rod Lott

BOOK WHORE >> 3.30.10

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

THE BARBARY PIRATES by William Dietrich — Swashbuckling American explorer and ladies’ man Ethan Gage finds himself in a desperate race — this time with the Barbary Pirates, a powerful band of Muslim outlaws from North Africa. Also after Ethan is his nemesis — and former lover — Aurora Somerset, member of a dangerous sect called the Egyptian Rite. The prize is the Mirror of Archimedes, an ancient superweapon that, according to legend, once burned a Roman fleet with its power. In 1802, this death ray could tip the balance of power in the Mediterranean, and Ethan must stop the pirates from using it against the American, English and French fleets.

THE BEST SCIENCE FICTION AND FANTASY OF THE YEAR: VOLUME FOUR edited by Jonathan Strahan — The depth and breadth of what science fiction and fantasy fiction is changes with every passing year. The two dozen stories chosen for this book by award-winning anthologist Jonathan Strahan carefully maps this evolution, giving readers a captivating and always-entertaining look at the very best the genre has to offer, featuring stories by Stephen Baxter, Pat Cadigan, Alex Irvine, Kelly Link, Bruce Sterling and many more.

DECEPTION by Jonathan Kellerman — Her name is Elise Freeman, and her chilling cry for help comes too late to save her. On a DVD found near her lifeless body, the emotionally and physically battered woman chronicles a year-and-a-half-long ordeal of monstrous abuse at the hands of three sadistic tormentors. But even more shocking than the lurid details is the revelation that the offenders, like their victim, are teachers at one of L.A.’s most prestigious prep schools. With Elise now dead by uncertain means, homicide detective Milo Sturgis is assigned to probe the hallowed halls of Windsor Prep Academy. And if ever he could use Dr. Alex Delaware’s psychological prowess, it’s now.

NOT LESS THAN GODS by Kage Baker — Recently returned from war, young Edward Anton Bell-Fairfax is grateful to be taken under the wing of the Gentleman’s Speculative Society. There, Edward soon learns that a secret world flourishes beneath the surface of London’s society, a world of wondrous and terrible inventions and devices used to tip the balance of power in a long-running game of high-stakes intrigue. Through his intensive training, Edward Anton Bell-Fairfax, unwanted and lonely boy, becomes Edward Anton Bell-Fairfax, Victorian super-assassin, fleeing across the Turkish countryside in steam-powered coaches and honing his fighting skills against clockwork opponents.

HOW TO WRITE A DAMN GOOD THRILLER: A STEP-BY-STEP GUIDE FOR NOVELISTS AND SCREENWRITERS by James N. Frey — A quick look at any fiction bestseller list reveals that thrillers make up most of the titles at the top. HOW TO WRITE A DAMN GOOD THRILLER will help the aspiring novelist or screenwriter to design, draft, write, and polish a thriller that is sure to grab readers. Frey uses examples from both books and movies and addresses the following hot topics: crafting a gripping opening, maintaining tension, creating obstacles and conflicts, adding surprise twists, building a smashing climax and many more.

ONE HUNDRED GREAT FRENCH BOOKS: FROM THE MIDDLE AGES TO THE PRESENT by Lance Donaldson-Evans — Proving that French literature has been a consistent and powerful source of cultural influence on an international level, this collection of 100 timeless French masterworks spans 10 centuries. Featuring a broad spectrum of literary genres, styles and formats — including comic books, detective novels and science fiction — this introduction provides cultural and social context to emphasize the importance of each work in literary history. Detailing each author’s background, historical significance and a summary of content, this compilation offers a panorama of one of the most fascinating and influential literatures in the world.

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Expiration Date

In EXPIRATION DATE, the season’s other oddball time-travel tale — the one that doesn’t involve a hot tub — newly unemployed journalist Mickey Wade moves into his comatose grandfather’s apartment on the rough side of Philly, takes a couple of pills from a 1982 Tylenol bottle he finds in the medicine cabinet, and wakes up on Feb. 22, 1972, which happens to be the day he was born.

The trips back are only temporary, wearing off quicker the fewer pills he takes. While the how remains a mystery to Mickey, the reason for his jaunts back to his birthday soon becomes apparent when he meets the redheaded 12-year-old downstairs, Billy Derace. He’s the kid who grows up to murder Mickey’s dad.

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The Resurrectionist

Several years ago, perhaps after a viewing of GROUNDHOG DAY, I decided that reliving the best day of your life over and over again would only be a good thing if you didn’t know what was happening. Given an infinite number of replays, even the most glorious day would become a bore.

And then I thought that the best day of my life would inevitably be the worst day of someone else’s. How hellish would it be to wake up every morning realizing that this is the day you’re going to be kidnapped, raped, tortured and murdered, and when you die, you’ll just come alive to start the experience all over again. That’s pretty damn Promethean.

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