The Black Glove

blackgloveGeoffrey Miller’s debut crime novel, THE BLACK GLOVE, earned an Edgar Award nomination for Best First Mystery Novel when first published in 1982. Now Miller has revised the manuscript slightly for this reissue from Brash Books – and a new generation of readers can discover and enjoy Miller’s considerable talents.

When Terry Traven, the novel’s protagonist, quit the LAPD to become a private investigator, he immediately modeled himself after Raymond Chandler’s fictional detective Philip Marlowe; right down to the hardboiled style of dress and speech patterns. His business thrived thanks to his reputation for successfully tracking down runaways.

Read more »

The Samaritan

samaritanTHE SAMARITAN is the second title of the series featuring Carter Blake, first introduced in THE KILLING SEASON last year. It’s a generally entertaining and involving thriller/procedural, marred slightly by awkward narrative perspective shifts.

The mutilated body of a young woman is found in the Santa Monica Mountains of Southern California, and LAPD Detective Jessica Allen is called in to investigate. It is the latest of a series of murders credited to a serial killer the media have dubbed “The Samaritan,” since his victims are young women whose cars have broken down, and the killer stops to offer help.

Read more »

Sharon Tate: A Life

sharontateLike its subject, SHARON TATE: A LIFE debuts with much promise before things go south. In Tate’s case, it wasn’t her fault; in counterculture icon Ed Sanders’ book, the fault is all his.

Since the VALLEY OF THE DOLLS star died so young — at age 26, slaughtered in the murder spree of Charles Manson’s “Family” in the summer of ’69 — her life story prior to marrying enfant terrible director Roman Polanski (ROSEMARY’S BABY) is hardly household knowledge. It’s a largely charmed existence from loving military family to accidental model-cum-actress — a woman who, despite incredible beauty, was less interested in the world of glitz and glamour in which she found herself than settling down and raising a family.

Read more »

Perfect Days

perfectdaysPERFECT DAYS is the English-language debut from Brazilian crime author Raphel Montes (translated by Alison Entrekin). It follows the twisted obsessions of a lonely outcast who thinks he has finally found the love of his life. Other than an overly long and disappointing resolution, it succeeds impressively as a psychological thriller.

Teo, the main protagonist, is a medical student who lives with paraplegic mother. He lacks many of the social skills for a young man of his age and feels awkward around people. So much so that he feels his closest friend is Gertrude, the cadaver he works on in his medical lab.

Read more »

4 Recent Film-Related Books Awaiting Your Holiday Gift Card Redemption

lukecantreadLike a less pretentious (and thereby more bearable) Chuck Klosterman, Ryan Britt mines pop culture for freakishly accessible essays — a full 14 of them soaked and sautéed in sci-fi for LUKE SKYWALKER CAN’T READ AND OTHER GEEKY TRUTHS. In the Plume paperback, Britt reminisces about his sexual awakening to the groove of Roger Vadim’s corny-porny BARBARELLA; considers the power and allure of sci-fi soundtracks; compares various screen Draculas; recalls how DOCTOR WHO saved his life; and praises Sherlock Holmes (and not so much George Lucas). Even if the author can take a while to reach his ultimate point — and can tend to repeat himself along the way — you keep reading because his voice is fresh, because humor acts as a salve against minor transgressions, and because I appreciate his pointed message to foamed-mouth fanboys to (in so many words) calm the fuck down. That said, I remain irritated by the haphazard method by which STAR WARS goes unitalicized roughly half the time. Guess lonely Luke isn’t the only one with comprehension troubles … right?

aliennextdoorI wonder if there’s an afterlife; if so, I wonder if it has a library; if so, I wonder if it stocks new releases; if so, I wonder if ALIEN NEXT DOOR is among them; if so, I wonder if H.R. Giger will run across it; if so, I wonder if he’ll find a way to come back and cause bodily harm to author/illustrator Joey Spiotto. In the square-shaped hardcover from Titan Books, Spiotto (2014’s ATTACK! BOSS! CHEAT CODE!: A GAMER’S ALPHABET) has turned the Giger-designed ALIEN into an adorable cartoon character who lives a quiet suburban life; each page is its own standalone joke, with the creature performing mundane household chores. Cute on the surface, the book boasts several clever gags hiding in plain sight, mostly references to the still-going franchise, facehuggers and otherwise. Spiotto’s approach amounts to sacrilege … but only if you don’t have a sense of humor.

fantasticplanetsAs FANTASTIC PLANETS, FORBIDDEN ZONES, AND LOST CONTINENTS’ subtitle promises, the University of Texas Press hardcover counts down THE 100 GREATEST SCIENCE-FICTION FILMS. “Greatest,” says who? Says Douglas Brode, if that means anything. Whether or not it does, such endeavors are entirely subjective and debatable, which is at least a good half of their appeal. Devoting a few pages to each, Brode covers them not in “Casey Kasem” order, but chronologically, starting with 1902’s A TRIP TO THE MOON and ending at 2014’s GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY. He often “cheats” during the trip, jamming several slots with pairs and trilogies, whether official or merely thematic. Don’t expect much in the way of criticism; extracting nuggets of trivia and backstories is what’s truly on the menu. Occasional baffling errors are forgiven by appendices of shorter, niche-oriented lists; Derek George’s impressive design work; and Brode’s own brave, oddball choices, e.g. the Wachowskis’ CLOUD ATLAS or Disney’s Flubber-fueled THE ABSENT-MINDED PROFESSOR.

bigbooksherlockFollowing similar genre-celebratory collections on vampires, zombies, ghosts, adventurers and pulp heroes (all from Vintage Crime’s Black Lizard line), anthologist extraordinaire Otto Penzler rounds up 83 — repeat: 83! — tales of the great detective for THE BIG BOOK OF SHERLOCK HOLMES STORIES. “Today,” as Penzler notes in his introduction, “Holmes continues to be a multimedia superstar” on screens both big and small, which hopefully (as I’ve counted on ever since Robert Downey Jr. took the role to blockbuster status) will continue to expose more and more readers to the joys of Arthur Conan Doyle’s canon of four novels and 56 short stories. It’s important to note Penzler’s collection is not that. It does contain a couple of Conan Doyle contributions — just not the kind you expect, which is a theme carried throughout this wonderful treasury, short on neither suspense or surprise. You get imitations, tributes, pastiches, parodies and so on, from authors as skilled and varied as O. Henry, Neil Gaiman, Stephen King, James M. Barrie, Manly Wade Wellman and even Anonymous. No Penzler collection — much less a mystery anthology in general — would be complete without a whodunit from the late, but forever exquisite Edward D. Hoch; his inclusion is simply elementary. —Rod Lott

Get them at Amazon.

Cry Blood / Killer in Silk

crybloodAlthough he published most of his work during the 1950s, in a period considered by many as the “Golden Age” of original paperback crime fiction, H. (Henry) Vernor Dixon’s was distinguished from most of the other authors of his day – as amply demonstrated by CRY BLOOD and KILLER IN SILK, two novels reissued in one package from Stark House Noir Classics.
Dixon was born in Sacramento, California, and lived most of his life in the Monterey area, where he set many of his books. Along with this unusual setting, Dixon further separated himself by eschewing most of the icons of his crime fiction associates – like the detectives, cops, and criminals-on-the-run that populate many of the works also published at the time. His protagonists are often outsiders who want to break into high society.

Read more »

A Better Goodbye

abettergoodbyeFor his debut novel, A BETTER GOODBYE, TV writer and former nationally syndicated sports columnist John Schulian chose to take readers through the underbelly of the sex trade in Los Angeles. It’s a world kept secret by its clientele, but provides the much-needed income and security for the main protagonists who populate this unusual but fascinating narrative.

Jenny Yee worked in the massage business until the day she discovered her co-workers beaten and raped in the apartment where they conducted business. Now she hopes to stay away from the trade and finally concentrate on being a student. But before long her growing pile of bills and other financial obligations force her to return. Being an attractive Asian woman she knows there will always be a demand for someone like her.

Read more »