Feminist, Fictionista, Foodie, Francophile

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

N is also for Film Noir

Speaking of Noir, as we were earlier today, Tuesday marked the 70th anniversary release of Double Indemnity, still my favorite Film Noir. Fred McMurray, Barbara Stanwyck.  And the always awesome Edward G. Robinson.  Directed by Billy Wilder from a script by Wilder and Raymond Chandler. It just does not get better than this.

N is for Noir

I like my fiction dark. (Most of the time. I actually have a really soft spot for cozy mysteries.) When I was writing the twice-weekly stories for America Online's "NoHo Noir," I routinely put my characters in situations that were dark. One of my best friends was particularly horrified by one story in which a kitten got killed. He has never let me forget about it. (And it's not like I would kill a kitten in real life, for God's sake. In addition to being having a soft spot for cozy mysteries, I have a soft spot for fuzzy creatures. I also have several friends who do animal rescue. So there's always a cat or two on the premises. but I digress.)

I don't remember the first "noir" story I ever read, but it was probably something by Cornell Woolrich. I've always been a sucker for pithy sentences and his line, "First you dream and then you die," which was borrowed for one of the Nightmare on Elm Street movies, is one of my favorite quotes.  According to a blurb on Amazon.com, "Cornell Woolrich was called the Poe of the 20th century and the poet of its shadows."

I'm pretty sure that the first time I saw Cornell Woolrich's name in print was in an essay by Harlan Ellison, himself something of a poet of the shadows. ("I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream" is in my top five of all-time favorite short stories, and his "Repent Harlequin, said the Tick-Tock Man" is also on that short list.)  Woolrich also wrote under the pseudonym "William Irish.," which is just one of those tough-guy sounding names that is too cool. I imagine a guy in a Fedora, an unfiltered cigarette dangling from his lips, banging away at an old typewriter. 

My favorite noir authors, in no particular order, are:
Jim Thompson
Dorothy B. Hughes
and the late, great Elmore Leonard.
Charles Willeford
Ian Rankin (who represents "Tartan Noir)

Noir flourished in the niddle of the last century but for my money, it's the genre that typefies this post-millennial time.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

M is for mystery series

When I pick up a book by an author I've not read before, I want to like the book. And if I like the book and it's part of a series, I will go and read the whole series, preferably one right after another. I don't like coming in on the middle, so I'll track down the books leading up to the books if necessary.

When I was in high school, I worked at the local library, which had a really good mystery section, even in the Large Print section. (And what a boon eReaders have been to people who need larger print. It always made me sad that unless you wanted to read Reader's Digest and a small selection of best sellers, your large print options were limited.)

Somtimes the series went on so long that they started to get stale, but I kept with them. Here's a list--in no particular order--of mystery book series I devoured.

Laura Joh Rowland's Sano Ichiro Mysteries--I love these books, set in Imperial Japan and they set off a lifelong fascination with the country and the history. The covers were gorgeous too. 

I came to these books by way of the television series: Robert B. Parker Spenser.
Ellis Peters' Brother Cadfael--I liked the Cadfael books so much that when I ran out of them, I moved on to the books Peters wrote under her real name, which were  historical fiction and not mysteries.
janet Evanovich's Stephanie Plum (By the numbers) I hated the movie, but still think the books would make an awesome television series.
Robert Crais' Elvis Cole novels --I love, love, love the Elvis Cole novels and now there are spin-offs for Joe Archer, one of the characters first introduced in the books
Nele Neuhaus' Fairy Tale series--Set in Germany, there are only two books in the series so far, but they're great.
Ed McBain's 87th Precinct books--Forget NYPD Blue, these were the procedurals for me.
William Marshall's Yellowthread Street mysteries (which sparked my desire to go to Hong Kong)
M.C. Beaton's Hamish Macbeth series (there's a fantastic TV series starring Robert Carlyle out there, with Danny Boyle writing and directing. I tried reading her "Agatha Raisin series but they were just too "twee" for me).
Catherine Aird's Sloan and Crosby books
Anne Perry's Thomas and Charlotte Pitt novels
And last but not least--Carolyn Keene's Nancy Drew and Franklin Dixon's Hardy Boys mysteries. They were the books that inspired my love of reading mysteries and I can still remember saving up my allowance to buy them.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Between the Letters--Christine Pope's DarkAngel Book Tour

I discovered I'd gotten ahead of myself in posting letter-themed posts, so today I'm going to do a little D-love.  Prizes are Amazon gift cards--which are always the right size and the right color. Get the details of the giveaway here along with paper and ebook copies of DarkAngel, the first in Pope's new series about "the witches of Cleopatra Hill."

Here's the blurb:

As the future prima, or head witch of her clan, Angela McAllister is expected to bond with her consort during her twenty-first year, thus ensuring that she will come into her full powers at the appointed time. The clock is ticking down, and her consort has yet to make an appearance. Instead, her dreams are haunted by a man she’s never seen, the one she believes must be her intended match.

But with time running out, and dark forces attempting to seize her powers for their own, Angela is faced with a terrible choice: give up her dreams of the man she may never meet and take the safer path, or risk leaving her clan and everyone in it at the mercy of those who seek their ruin.

the giveaway ends tomorrow night so be sure to stop by.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

N is for Nordic Noir

I have never been to any Scandinavian country, but I love the sub-genre of mystery known as Nordic Noir. I am particularly fond of the "Harry Hole" books by Jo Nesbo (N is for Nesbo) and Jussi Adler-Olsen's Dept. Q books.  I'm not alone in my affection for these mysteries. There's a list of almost 300 titles in the genre on Goodreads and some of my favorite books aren't even on there. If you're looking for a place to dive into the chilly waters of this genre, the Goodreads list is a good place to start.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

M is for Michael Malone

Michael Malone wrote one of my all-time favorite novels, Handling Sin. It is an absolute joy of a book, a story about friendship and family, and it has a wonderful sense of place. it's a book that would make a great movie and I think that David S. Ward, who wrote The Sting, has done a draft of the script.

I also like Malone's mysteries featuring Cuddy Mangum and Justin Saville V. Like Handling Sin, they're set in North Carolina (Malone was born in Durham) and he nails the Southern thing.  Malone's characters are really
wonderful and his books are a pleasure to read. And in looking him up for this blogpost, I discovered he wrote a book a few years ago that I didn't know about. So now I have the pleasure of reading something that promises to be a pure pleasure.

M is for Murakami, Haruki

Haruki Murakami has been criticized for his "surrealistic and nihilistic" fantasy by some Japanese critics, but for me, that's what makes his work so wonderfully original and engaging. Also, my first encounter with the novelist was through Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World, which was a lovely story filled with hope and beauty. It's a book I recommend to friends who don't really read "lit fic" and they've enjoyed it. I know a producer who's trying to bring this novel to the screen and I hope he succeeds because it would make a really beautiful movie. (I was not a huge fan of Ang Lee's Life of Pi, but wasn't it gorgeous? The right director could turn Murakami's work into something visually stunning to compete with the superhero movies and the giant robots.)