“That country where it is always turning late in the year. That country where the hills are fog and the rivers are mist; where noons go quickly, dusks and twilights linger, and midnights stay.” – Ray Bradbury
Down in Jericho, Mississippi, a group of men in Donald Trump masks burst into a bank with the intentions of cleaning out the cash from the big Wal-Mart Presidents’ Day Sale. A few miles down the road at Vienna’s Place (formerly the more succinctly-named Booby Trap), Fannie Hathcock, owner and proprietor, has taken a hammer to a customer’s face.
Back in 2014, Ace Atkins co-authored an article with Michael Fechter for Outside magazine about a man named Jamie Smith. According to the article, Smith built a mini-empire based in large part on his wildly colorful background as an ex-CIA agent, Harvard graduate, and expert on weaponry and wartime tactics. Smith appeared on major news networks to talk about couterterrorism, and he ran a school for weekend warriors out in Mississippi. He convinced a Pennsylvania couple to hand him over $12 million dollars he promised to invest for them. He signed a book deal with William Morrow.
Then, as suspicions that his highly-touted background was nothing more than a carefully constructed house of cards began to bear fruit, Jamie Smith disappeared. Continue reading →
Hap and Leonard: Blood and Lemonade is equal parts short story collection and novel; or, as author Joe Lansdale terms it in his Afterword, a “mosaic novel.” The stories are a mix of previously published material and a couple of new stories, all of them set in the early days of the duo’s friendship. The wrap-around segments take place in the present day, and mostly consist of the two guys riding around and reminiscing, a conceit that works as well as it does because of the long (ten novels’ worth) history between the two, not to mention Lansdale’s considerable storytelling skill. Continue reading →
In his astounding sophomore novel, The Weight of This World, David Joy once again explores the rough reality of life in the North Carolina mountains. Rather than center blame for his characters’ hardships on the usual suspects—environment, isolation, lack of opportunity—he focuses squarely on their own weaknesses; in particular, their inability to make good decisions. Continue reading →
Working as a hand on his guardians’ ranch is an okay job as far as Chris Bain is concerned, but what he really wants to do is ride in the rodeo. Will Littlefield, part of a group of college kids hired on as extra help, has some experience doing just that. The two immediately bond over their passion for riding giant, powerful animals that don’t want to be ridden, sparking a friendship that’s soon to be strengthened through some very unusual circumstances. Continue reading →
Nick Travers’ musician friend Fats is dead, and his saxophone—a vintage 1940s beauty—is missing. Determined to honor the memory of his late friend the only way he knows how, Travers sets out through the rain-soaked streets of New Orleans to recover the sax.
The plot of Last Fair Deal Gone Down, adapted from the short story of the same name by Ace Atkins, doesn’t get much more complicated than that, leaving Atkins and artist Marco Finnegan plenty of room to revel in the seedy Crescent City atmosphere. Continue reading →
Boston is burning, one abandoned building at a time.
It is a year after the fire that consumed the empty shell that was once the Holy Innocents church – a fire that resulted in the deaths of three Boston firefighters. Those deaths still haunt Jack McGee, a fellow firefighter who has grown increasingly frustrated with his own department’s investigation into the incident. So frustrated, in fact, that he does the near-unthinkable and reaches outside the firefighter family for help. The man he calls on is a P.I. named Spenser. Continue reading →
If I laid out the entire plot of Kill Switch, the eighth book in Jonathan Maberry’s Joe Ledger series, it would read like a synopsis of four or five books in two or three different genres. Most times, that would be a recipe for disaster, but Maberry somehow keeps all the balls in the air for over 500 pages, resulting in a satisfying thrill ride of a book.
Because I feel like I should offer some kind of synopsis, I’ll boil it down like so: Ledger and his crack team of operatives uncover a massive machine of mysterious intent at a remote military base in Antarctica – i.e., another day at the office for these guys. But things begin to diverge far from the norm as a hidden city and some giant penguin-like creatures come into play. Agents throughout the Department of Military Sciences (Ledger’s home turf), as well as agents of the CIA, FBI and other organizations, begin blowing assignments and, in some cases, committing outright acts of betrayal and treason. Strange power outtages in major American cities cause confusion and result in tragedy. Carefully constructed security measures are breached, allowing digital information and dangerous laboratory specimens to fall into the wrong hands. We learn that H.P. Lovecraft’s stories may be more fact than fiction. Meanwhile, a new prophet is emerging in the Middle East, and a child genius who may not be entirely human is constructing something called a God Machine. Continue reading →
Chris Ould’s The Blood Strand is a solid start to a promised trilogy of novels set in the Faroes islands, a small, isolated community that’s just as complicated – and captivating – as the novel’s characters.
British police detective Jan Reyna was taken from the Faroes by his mother when he was just a child, and he’s never known why. Reyna returns when his estranged father falls ill, only to find his father has been implicated in a murder investigation. Evidence from that case points to blackmail, and the entire sordid affair begins to turn back in ever-tightening circles to include more members of Reyna’s family. Continue reading →
After nine novels and a number of short stories and novellas, sitting down with a new Hap and Leonard book is less like reading and more like meeting up with a couple of buddies to have a drink and swap some stories. That’s just about the highest compliment I know how to pay author Joe R. Lansdale, who has created a set of timeless characters who seem to live and breathe outside of his own considerable imagination. Continue reading →