Celeste Giuliano’s Pin-Ups in 3-D / Retro Glamour: Photography of Mark Anthony Lacy

To paraphrase Patrick Dempsey’s narration that opens the rather oddball (and underrated) 1988 rom-com SOME GIRLS, I love women — almost all of them.

Either purely coincidental or through calculated Orwellian means, Schiffer Publishing has released two photography books within three months’ time that play directly to my admiration of the fairer, superior sex and their awe-inspiring form: CELESTE GIULIANO’S PIN-UPS IN 3-D and RETRO GLAMOUR: PHOTOGRAPHY OF MARK ANTHONY LACY. Both books are bursting with wall-to-wall — er, make that cover-to-cover — snaps of gorgeous gals. Call me chauvinist if you must, but you’ll be wrong; being for equal rights and being a heterosexual male are not mutually exclusive. Why, I can utter “ERA now!” and “Va-va-voom!” in the same breath, panted though it may be.

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Black Feathers: Dark Avian Tales

Prolific, insightful and often surprising editor Ellen Datlow chooses birds as the topic of BLACK FEATHERS: DARK AVIAN TALES, her latest anthology of mostly new stories.

Birds often connote beauty, freedom, and song. But as Datlow points out in her stylish Introduction, “there’s a dark side to the avian.” She notes the many birds of prey; that birds often kill other bird’s eggs; and some are also known to kill small animals. These and several other foreboding avian characteristics, along with several species of birds themselves, are the basis of the works featured in this anthology.

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Movie Comics: Page to Screen/Screen to Page

Blair Davis’ Movie Comics: Page to Screen/Screen to Page was not quite the book to which I had been looking forward for the better part of 2016. Turns out, that’s a good thing — even a great one.

While the rest of the film world debates the merits of the Marvel Cinematic Universe and DC’s catch-up attempts, Chicago-based cinema professor Davis dives deep into the comic-book (and -strip) movies and TV shows few care to acknowledge, from the Dick Tracy flicks of the 1940s and all those Blondie comedies to the early serial adventures of Superman, Batman, Captain America and pulp-borne heroes of whom you haven’t heard.

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Darkness Whispers

A mysterious older gentleman wanders into a small town and wreaks havoc by granting the residents their secret desires, all at the cost of simply doing him a small favor.

No, it’s not Stephen King’s NEEDFUL THINGS, although you’d be forgiven for thinking that. The plots are eerily similar, but honestly, it wasn’t a terribly original plot to begin with. The whole “make a deal with the Devil” and “be careful what you wish for” scenarios were showing signs of age back when Rod Serling was pulling them out for every fourth episode of THE TWILIGHT ZONE.

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The Killing Bay

Wow. I’d never read a mystery set within the Faroe Islands, but after Chris Ould’s THE KILLING BAY, I want to go back and read his first (THE BLOOD STRAND) and will eagerly await what I presume to be the third in the series (THE FIRE PIT, due February 2018).

He brilliantly describes the Faroe countryside (very evocative, and with a handy map and place name pronunciation guide) and the Faroe culture (such as the grind, a whale hunt in which all the islanders take a share of the meat and blubber from the dead animal).

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Snatch

The late Gregory Mcdonald is remembered primarily for his popular Fletch and Flynn series. So much so that only his most devoted readers know that he also wrote several stand-alone crime novels. Hard Case Crime hopes to correct this with SNATCH, which presents two long out-of-print Mcdonald novels about kidnapping. And although they both share this common element, they are two completely different novels in all important regards.

SNATCH, the first of the two novels (first published as WHO TOOK TOBY RINALDI in 1978) takes place in the 1970s and focuses on the United Nations Ambassador to an unnamed country in the Middle East. The Ambassador’s son, Toby, is kidnapped by those who wish to prevent the Ambassador from presenting a resolution that will affect the flow of oil through the Persian Gulf. The Ambassador and his wife search for their abducted son while enlisting the assistance of the country’s designated officers. But the panicked parents soon suspect that these officers can’t be completely trusted.

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Koreatown Blues

As the title implies, Mark Rogers’s debut crime novel is set in the seldom-celebrated section of Los Angeles known as KOREATOWN. It features a protagonist who finds himself unexpectedly entangled in the traditions of the Korean population he lives and works among.

Wes Norgaard has worked for several years at a carwash in Koreatown. At night he hangs out at a bar not far from where he lives and works, and often finds himself the only white guy in the place.

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Mars in the Movies: A History

With movies, as with potential mates, everyone has a type toward which he or she instinctively gravitates. For me, it’s heists or spiders. For Thomas Kent Miller, it’s that angry red planet — a lifelong fascination that culminates in the publication of the book Mars in the Movies: A History.

Released by McFarland & Company, the trade paperback surveys nearly 100 Mars flicks, roughly from the 1910 Thomas Edison silent short A Trip to Mars to 2015’s blockbuster The Martian. With the latter making a mint and taking seven Oscar nominations, you’d think Miller would find Ridley Scott’s populist smash to be a source of unending joy. Instead, he had “zero emotional response to the film. When I should have felt elated, I felt nothing.” And that call-’em-as-I-see-’em approach is all part of the book’s hours of fun.

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Cruel Mercy

CRUEL MERCY is the fifth novel in the series featuring Scottish Detective Sergeant Aector MacAvoy, written by David Mark, and in a series that can be somewhat hit or miss, this one falls mostly in the “miss” category. The first slight misstep, and it is very slight, is that this book is set in New York City not Yorkshire. It would have been a disaster if the author had excluded two of the strongest female characters in detective fiction, MacAvoy’s gypsy wife Roisin and his boss, Trish Pharaoh. Thankfully, these two do make multiple appearances between phone calls, text messages and Skype sessions.

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Dead Gone

DEAD GONE, the debut novel from by Luca Veste, editor of two previous story anthologies, is a generally impressive and inventive work. The crime tale involves the hunt for a shadowy serial killer while commenting on important but often neglected themes. Sadly, however, Veste’s constantly shifting perspective prevents this debut from being totally satisfying.

The body of a young woman is found in a park in Liverpool, England. The case goes to veteran homicide inspector Detective David Murphy and his new partner, Laura Rossi. They quickly discover that the murder victim was a student at the City of Liverpool University.

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