Friday, November 12, 2010

Latest from Walker's Wild Onion series is a winner

Too Many Clients
By David Walker
ISBN: 9780727869302
Published by Severn House,
2010, 214 pgs.

Another sparkling crime novel in the Wild Onion series. It’s always a pleasure to open a book knowing you are in the hands of an experienced storyteller. Author David Walker has been around the block a few times and he has the accolades to show for it. His latest does not disappoint. Here we have a pair of wise and witty practitioners who are married to each other. In less sure hands, the marriage of two characters often lets a lot of steam out of a relationship and sends readers searching for other divertissements.

Not this time. Private investigator Kirsten, married to uber-relaxed lawyer Dugan, takes on her husband as a client, after a bad cop is found murdered. Dugan, never a careful person, has blundered into the thing in such a way he becomes a suspect. And while Dugan can act odd at times, almost the antithesis of the hard-driving lawyer of many crime fiction novels, he is far from the only character. There’s Larry. Larry Candle is a partner in Dugan’s office. He just doesn’t come off as someone whom you’d want to represent you in court for anything more serious than a mistaken parking ticket. Yet Larry manages to get the job done all the while irritating nearly everyone around him.

As the days pass, Dugan and Kirsten continue to collect new clients who somehow all want them to locate the killer of this bad cop. To Kirsten and Dugan’s collective thinking these new clients don’t seem to be entirely above suspicion, either. Meanwhile the cops continue to zero in on Dugan. Gradually, as Kirsten digs deeper into the people who knew or knew about the dead cop, the story takes on wider and wider implications, tangling mob figures with international activities, a prominent churchman and….well, you get the idea.

Twists on top of fascinating complications.
The novel is well-paced, complicated, and a truly fun read. I look for more cheeky stories in Walker’s Wild Onion series.

Friday, November 05, 2010

Musings on errors

The following is a piece by Bo Parker from a newsgroup post which I like
and use with permission.

Since typos have become one of the topics de jour, even
though such strikes me as somewhat off the track, I'm tossing in my
two cents of comment, which is probably what's it's worth in today's
world. When I first ventured out into the "publishing world" with my
first novel some two and a half years ago, I did so with the goal
suggested by friends--that the book be used as a fund raiser for
local charities and civic groups. I quickly learned that once the
"publishing pie" is sliced, there are very few monetary crumbs that
trickle back to the source for the author or anyone else. Along the
way, I discovered the actual cost of printing the book, which led me
to take a different route, knowing full well the brush with with
which I would be tarred as an author who had a book "published" by a
method not considered "traditional."

Along the way, I did know, as some have said, "at least enough to
have the manuscript professionally edited." That I did. Four times,
by four different "professional" editors. Included in this quartet
was one who had edited published books, another who was recommended
by a published author, and one who had been "certified" after taking
"an extensive test, based on the Chicago Manual of Style, the MLA
Handbook, The Gregg Reference Manual, and Merriam-Webster's
Collegiate Dictionary, 11th, edition." Guess what? My published
book has mistakes in it. Some of them are an embarrassment to me. And
they have become a reminder of a comment made to me by a published
author. "Mistakes are why you want to go with a traditional house.
Then they can be blamed on its editors, not the author."

Based on the the majority of opinions expressed so far that
mistakes in published books are a given for a multitude of reasons,
and in a void of suggestions as to how they can be eliminated, I am
left at a loss to understand the rational behind the comment that
mistakes can make a person think less of the author. However, I have
learned a lesson. The first book as a fundraiser has exceeded my
expectations, and publication of the second in the series will follow
the same path, with one addition. On the appropriate page, below
"published by...." will be the statement, "Edited by...." That leaves
me with only one question. Will there be an editor who is willing to
have his or her name published as part of the book?

Bronson L. Parker

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

SET THE NIGHT ON FIRE: An Outstanding Thriller

Set The Night On Fire
By Libby Fischer Hellmann
ISBN: 978-0-98406-5-7
Trade Paperback from
Allium Press, Chicago, 2010
346 pages.

Every so often a novel comes along that connects with the reader in such a visceral way that it is like a punch in the stomach. This is such a story. If you lived through the nineteen-sixties and your memory is reasonably intact, or you learned even a small amount about those turbulent times, you will connect with this story.

On one level this is the story of Lila Hilliard.

Forty-some years after a particular series of spectacular and dangerous events in Chicago that revolved around a nasty far-off war and a political convention, a mysterious fire has robbed her of the only family she has ever known. At about the same time, a man named Dar Gantner, just released from prison, returns to Chicago from prison to reconnect with a few of his former companions from the same era. One, a woman named Rain, tells Dar that another of their mutual friends has just met with an odd fatal accident. It is clear in their conversation that Rain doesn’t entirely believe that it was an accident.

From that moment on it becomes apparent that dark and unknown forces are at work. But why? Who are these people we meet at the beginning of the book, who targets them and why? Through a series of small and then progressively longer flashbacks we are transported to a time when young people believed the rhetoric, that they could indeed change the outcomes of momentous happenings, that they could affect the course of the most powerful nation in the world. Some of those players, whatever they believed, moved on to build calm and substantial lives of commerce, and politics, and contemplative existences. They don’t want to relive any part of that time.

Most readers alive today will have memories of the Chicago convention of 1968, or of the riots and will begin again to remember the emotions of the time. And even if not, the measured, artful, portioning out of connections, of information, will bring those emotions to the surface. On another level, this is the telling of the great events of the late sixties, the crimes and the abuses and the trails that descended from them, not from the newspaper headlines or the televised reports, but through the eyes and hearts of some of the young people at the center of the conflicts. But this is no polemic, nor is it an attempt to change the record.

What the author has done is produce a cracking good thriller that grips a reader by the throat and doesn’t let go until the final pages. One after another the revelations keep coming, and as the central characters struggle to stay alive long enough to solve their mysteries, the author maintains our interest in the love story, the history and the dynamics of the times. It doesn’t matter your political beliefs, then, or now; the characters and their trials will reach off the pages of this fine novel and touch you in ways that are basic to our existence as human beings. This is a fine, fine novel that well deserves the accolades it will surely receive.