Art Spiegelman’s Pulitzer Prize-winning MAUS casts an imposing shadow upon every graphic novel memoir that has arrived in its wake. Is it a fair comparison? No, but when the topic is the struggles between the artist and his refugee parents years after a tumultuous war, it’s almost impossible to ignore. Unfortunately, GB Tran’s VIETNAMERICA falls far short, even when graded on a steep curve.

GB Tran is the American-born son of parents who fled Vietnam after the fall of Saigon in 1975. He maintains a casual disinterest in his family’s history and indeed the history of the Vietnam War until he travels to the country for the first time to attend his grandmother’s funeral.

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Vermilion Drift

I come late to the oeuvre of William Kent Krueger, having started with HEAVEN’S KEEP and now following on with VERMILION DRIFT, the 10th novel featuring Cork O’Connor. He’s currently a private investigator in the Iron Range of Minnesota, a geographic setting that is painted with considerable skill throughout the book. It’s a rough land, but a beautiful one, filled with sometimes rough but beautiful people.

What is not beautiful is the thought that the federal government is considering the Vermilion One Mine, in the heart of Tamarack County, as a potential site for nuclear waste disposal. Residents are upset, and when the mine owner receives a vaguely worded message that could be considered a death threat, O’Connor is called in. In the process of finding out who wrote the threats, they literally stumble upon something much bigger: the solution to a 40-year-old series of crimes known as the Vanishings.

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Dave Zeltserman is the acclaimed author of the “man out of prison” crime trilogy: SMALL CRIMES, PARIAH and KILLER. His recent THE CARETAKER OF LORNE FIELD has been shortlisted by ALA for best horror novel of 2010, while this year’s OUTSOURCED has already been called “a small gem of crime fiction” by BOOKLIST and optioned for film. His latest, however, is BLOOD CRIMES, an e-book exclusive that marks a bit of departure for him. Here, Zeltserman delves into the concept behind it, and gives us an excerpt that’s quite a big bite.

BLOOD CRIMES places vampires in a noir universe populated with doomed lovers, hard-boiled PIs, dangerous drug biker gangs and truly scary sociopaths — except the vampires aren’t supernatural creatures in this universe, but instead damaged and severely flawed individuals suffering from a virus that emulates vampire-like powers.

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In Noah Boyd’s AGENT X, a Russian embassy officer known as Calculus approaches the FBI claiming that he has a list of Americans who are selling confidential information to the Russian SVR. In exchange for the list, he is asking for a quarter of a million dollars for each traitor the FBI apprehends. The FBI realizes that it has to keep the operation quiet, so it brings in agent-turned-bricklayer Steve Vail. We have five copies to give away.

To enter:
1. E-mail us your name and mailing address (U.S. only; no P.O. boxes) with “X marks the spot” as the subject line, to editor at bookgasm dot com.
2. Await Friday, Feb. 4, when we announce the randomly chosen winners.
3. Or, just buy it at Amazon.

Your Weekend Flick Attack

What’s been going on at our sister site, Flick Attack, “hitting you with one random movie a day … whether you like it or not”? Here’s what you’ve missed this week:

• Charles Band’s THE DAY TIME ENDED, starring “a 3-inch-high stop-motion alien who dances and flitters about the cabinets and bedding”
• GREASE 2, which our reviewer argues sucks less than the beloved original
• the trailer compilation 42ND STREET FOREVER VOLUME 5: ALAMO DRAFTHOUSE CINEMA, featuring Chuck Heston, “movies with black people in them and super-shitty children’s films.”
• Hong Kong’s DUMPLINGS, “as disturbing as any movie you’re likely to see”
• the “onion-headed mutants” of Japan’s sci-fi actioner GANTZ

How many more reasons do you need?


John D. Luerssen discovered a new band called U2 in the early ‘80s just like a lot of us did: through word of mouth. And like many of us early adopters, he’s been a fan ever since. Culled from books, magazine articles, interviews and his own research, his U2 FAQis an exhaustive collection of nearly anything and everything you want to know about “the biggest band in the world.”

Predictably, it begins with the requisite biographical tidbits regarding each band member (all five of them … and how they became four). We learn about Bono’s strained relationship with his father, Adam Clayton’s penchant for being a prankster, and the group’s struggle with balancing spirituality with their desire to be rock stars. Luerssen details how Bono met Alison Stewart and the start of their 30-year, monogamous (yeah, right) relationship.

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The Devil’s Star

Now in paperback, THE DEVIL’S STAR by Jo Nesbø is the fifth in his series of novels featuring Inspector Harry Hole. Ably translated from the Norwegian by Don Bartlett, this book, first published in English in 2004 and now made available in America for the first time, is just one of eight in the series, all of which should develop a big following here in the States.

From the opening seven-page scene describing a drop of liquid’s path from one room to the next, to the climactic and deadly final confrontation, everything is so well-presented, so gritty and intense, that you fly through the 450+ pages imagining every vignette in your mind as to how it would play out in a movie theater. It’s exciting, cinematic, visceral.

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Available only as an e-book, Dave Zeltserman’s BLOOD CRIMES is a genre-bending collision of dark urban fantasy and crime that rides shotgun with Jim and Carol as they carve a homicidal path cross-country. Jim is infected with the vampire virus. Carol isn’t. Yet. But they’re united in their hunt for society’s most dangerous predators for Jim’s dinner, so he can feed without harming the innocent. What they don’t know is that they’re not alone.

We have five files to give away, going to:
• Garry Overbey
• Matt Barr
• Joanne Viehman
• Dawnann Haas
• Mark Devery

buy it at Amazon.

A Lonely Death / An Impartial Witness

Charles Todd, the nom de plume of a mother-and-son writing collaboration, scores again with AN IMPARTIAL WITNESS, the second mystery featuring World War I British nurse Bess Crawford, now in paperback, and the hardback A LONELY DEATH, the 13th in the series featuring the remarkable Inspector Ian Rutledge.

Rutledge, who is haunted by the ghost of Hamish, a soldier he was forced to execute during the war. In this grim tale, set a couple of years after the end of World War I, we find three war vets have all been garroted in the sleepy, tiny town of Eastfield. Soldier identity discs have been inserted in each of their mouths, but they do not belong to the murdered men.

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Hammer Films: The Unsung Heroes — The Team Behind the Legend

I dislike using the term, but it’s the only one here that is accurate: insane. Wayne Kinsey’s fourth volume of Hammer Studios lore, HAMMER FILMS: THE UNSUNG HEROES, contains an insane amount of detail and information about the famed British production company.

And when I say “insane,” I don’t say it in a frivolous manner. I mean that this book veers toward the pathologically obsessive in its attention to detail. I mean that the book not only covers the directors, producers and writers behind Hammer’s memorable (and occasionally not-so-memorable) library of films in a comprehensive and illuminating way, it also covers the carpenters, set dressers, boom operators, script girls, stuntmen and even some extras.

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