Black Mad Wheel

The Danes are former WWII Army musicians turned mildly successful civilian band. It’s 1957 Detroit, and with several mid-list hits under their belt, the band is feeling a stagnation they strive to overcome by drinking too much, and producing albums by less experienced, less talented groups. Then one day, the Army comes calling with an offer: travel to the African desert and try to locate the source of a mysterious sound. Not just any ordinary sound, however, as this particular one can render weapons useless and incapacitate men.

It sounds a little like “Indiana Jones and the Lost Horn of Jericho.” But no, BLACK MAD WHEEL by Josh Malerman is better than that hackneyed premise.

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The Chalk Pit

Elly Griffiths’ series of mysteries featuring forensic archaeologist Ruth Galloway has now extended to nine books, with the latest being THE CHALK PIT. She also writes another series, Magic Men, now up to three titles. Thankfully, her prolific outpouring has done nothing to harm the characters in the series, the plots, or the writing style. Remarkably, she is one of the few mystery authors I can think of who really lets her characters grow and change, sometimes quite drastically, over the course of the series. It’s refreshing and keeps the reader on his or her toes.

In this latest installment, bones are found in one of the chalk mining tunnels that undercut the city of Norwich. The bones have been boiled and they are of recent origin, ten, maybe fifty years old. Boiled bones? Cannibalism? It’s certainly murder.

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Forever and a Death

Hard Case Crime is promoting FOREVER AND A DEATH as both the Donald E. Westlake novel that was never before published and the James Bond movie that was never made. So explanations are in order.

In the mid 1970s the producers of the long-running James Bond movie franchise hired crime novelist Donald E. Westlake to come up with a story for the next Bond movie. Westlake developed a story based on what was then the recent transferal of Hong Kong back to the Chinese after decades of British rule. But political concerns intervened and the movie was never made. Westlake then took his idea and made it into a thriller novel that was never published during his life.

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A Time of Torment

John Connolly brings private detective Charlie Parker back for his 13th novel. Now in trade paperback, A TIME OF TORMENT has all the usual characteristics expected from the series. But Connolly readers may be disappointed by the noticeable lack of Parker himself in this latest outing.

Jerome Burnel was once considered a hero. But then he was suddenly arrested for a crime he swears he never committed and sent to prison. In prison he was first ignored, then brutalized by fellow inmates. Now, with his prison term completed and a free man once again, Burnel seeks out P.I. Charlie Parker to tell his story.

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4 Film Titles for Summer Reading

I suspect I’m not the only one who, upon the death of Pulitzer Prize-winning film critic Roger Ebert in 2013, bought his 2006 collection, Awake in the Dark, thinking it to be the definitive summation of his prolific and distinguished career. The University of Chicago Press has proven me wrong, by issuing Awake in the Dark: The Best of Roger Ebert — Second Edition. Roughly half of the original volume was taken up by his best-of-year reviews from 1967 (Bonnie and Clyde) to 2005 (uh, Crash); this newer edition picks up where that left off, from 2006 (Pan’s Labyrinth) to 2012 (um, Argo). While his choices could be suspect, he nonetheless demonstrated an affinity for making his case, and making it sing; most notable — and representative of his power — are his now-famous support for the 1994 documentary Hoop Dreams and the ’98 sci-fi mind-bender Dark City. The book also features sections on docs, foreign pics and underseen gems, as well as assorted essays, including a Pauline Kael tribute, a list of the century’s 10 most influential movies and a round-robin series from the early ’90s on the state of film criticism, in which Ebert gets into it with peers Richard Corliss and Andrew Sarris. This book is as essential as the man is missed.

Former Nevada Film Office deputy director Robin Holabird draws upon nearly a quarter-century of government work scouting locations for motion pictures and television shows in the Silver State, for her memoir on those glitzy, glamorous years, Elvis, Marilyn, and the Space Aliens: Icons on Screen in Nevada. With such big movies as Independence Day, Ocean’s 11, Showgirls, Smokin’ Aces, Jane Austen’s Mafia and Casino on the table, one longs for a VIP tour through the making of these flicks, but in that department, the author woefully rolls snake eyes. Readers are lucky to get a quote relayed through her here and there, but most of the content is strictly a rundown of Such-and-Such Project shooting Such-and-Such Scene at Such-and-Such scenic spot. At least Holabird keeps the University of Nevada Press paperback moving at a whirlwind, not to mention spanning the gamut of prestige, from the long-running TV smash CSI: Crime Scene Investigation to the chintzy Stella Stevens project Las Vegas Lady. All in all, though, a missed opportunity.

Attention, cult cinemaniacs who like to sniff out zines catering to their peculiar tastes: Hunt down Woof! Dog Eat Cinema Magazine. The damaged brainchild of Hans Minkes, the Netherlands-based publication combines enthusiastic movie reviews with top-notch illustrations, then shoves the oft-ribald results into the size of your standard comic book. Like a Cinema Sewer from the other half of the world, contents lean into the lascivious, yet are wonderfully varied; among the three issues I’ve read (#2-#4), spotlighted titles include Lady Iron Monkey, Pete Walker’s The Comeback, the infamous atrocity pic Men Behind the Sun, a Django porn parody and Albert Band’s Ghoulies II, the latter as part of each issue’s “Whatever Lola Wants,” in which Minkes’ young daughter randomly selects a VHS tape for Dad to cover. Another recurring feature is Hans Van Den Broeck’s “Fur on Film,” with each installment exploring a werewolf subgenre, whether Asian, X-rated or good ol’ Andy Milligan. From my POV, Woof’s two best articles savaged the films of Draculina publisher Hugh Gallagher (Goregasm, et al.) and the post-apocalyptic roller-skate movie, of which there are more than you think (mostly “thanks” to Donald G. Jackson). Interested pups should email woofmagazine at hotmail dot com for ordering deets!

Presumably tied to this summer’s highly anticipated release of War for the Planet of the Apes, Abrams ComicsArts continues its exquisitely packaged series of Topps trading-card retrospectives with Planet of the Apes: The Original Topps Trading Card Series. The hardback devotes a full page to each card’s front and back, numerically going through the entire stack — not just the one based on the 1968 classic film, but also the short-lived TV show and the Tim Burton remake (and its numerous limited-edition cards), with author Gary Gerani contributing commentary as we go. (His introductory essay is fascinating; for example, Charlton Heston initially balked at being pictured on those damn, dirty bubble-gum cards.) As with Abrams’ other Topps books, a sealed pack of cards is glued onto the inside back cover. For Apes fans — and especially collectors of the franchise’s memorabilia — it’s a madhouse of pop-culture preservation! —Rod Lott

Get them at Amazon.

The Soak

Is it possible for a criminal protagonist to be long past his prime yet captivating enough to hold our interest? The author of the HOW TO SUCCEED IN EVIL series, Patrick E. McLean, succeeds in this challenge with his foray into crime fiction, THE SOAK.

Hobbs, the novel’s lead character, knows he’s not a young man anymore. But working large-scale heists is the only life he knows. So as much as he’d like to quite, when he learns about a Florida armored truck transporting huge amounts of cash Hobbs finds himself once more planning and carrying out another theft.

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Kiss the Bricks

I really can’t recommend enough the remarkable series of mysteries written by Tammy Kaehler about professional racecar driver Kate Reilly. The series has now hit its fifth title, KISS THE BRICKS, and while each book has its highlights, the entirety of the series is just solid, well-rounded entertainment.

Kaehler knows auto racing and describes on-the-track action extremely well. She’s also adept at character development and a reader soon comes to adore and respect the strength of her main character. Reilly is a strong woman, but also cognizant of her weaknesses and the general fickleness of success in the racing world, giving her a believability that outweighs the general oddness of having a touring racing driver solve murder cases.

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I Love Time Travel, Even Though It’s Impossible: 3 Reasons Why

The following guest essay is written by Chris A. Jones, who grew up in Fayetteville, N.C., and currently resides in Allen, Texas (near Dallas). He has a degree in computer science and has been working for more than 15 years as a software engineer. REVERSIONE: RESET THE FUTURE is his first published book, and the first in the Reversione series.

Time travel has been a source of fascination for decades, serving as the central theme in some of our most treasured science fiction stories. But is time travel really possible? Although I’ve recently penned a novel centered on time travel, the truth is I personally don’t believe that it is possible. There are of various opinions, science, and theories circulating around this issue and there are a number of things that seem to negate the possibility of time travel, or at least prove to be quite problematic.

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’80s Action Movies on the Cheap: 284 Low Budget, High Impact Pictures

A word of warning to those interested in the book ’80s Action Movies on the Cheap: 284 Low Budget, High Impact Pictures: “Cheap” is an adjective not used carelessly, so expect neither Stallone nor Schwarzenegger. Know that there is nary a Batman or Bond, and that Van Damme is more or less persona non grata. In fact, Mr. American Ninja himself, Michael Dudikoff, is as mainstream as it gets. This is the kind of book in which Reb Brown claims 14 pages, which is nothing compared to Godfrey Ho’s 36 — and if you don’t know who they are, this McFarland & Company paperback release is not for you. I happen to love it like a child.

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Since We Fell

Dennis Lehane’s latest novel, SINCE WE FELL, best demonstrates his skill at creating and presenting alluring, credible characters. Sadly, however, this demonstration is at the expense of the novel’s plot; which states what seems like it’s central conflict after an overly long beginning, only to lose itself in several meandering chapters toward the end.

Rachel Childs works her way up from a reporter’s job at a local newspaper to acclaim as an international journalist for a television network. Along the way, however, Rachel fights a series of panic attacks that she keeps hidden from her professional responsibilities. Then, while hosting a series of stories covering the aftermath of a devastating overseas natural disaster, Rachel suffers an on-air breakdown. It is witnessed by untold thousands of viewers and derails her career.

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