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What's new in the P.I. world...
Reference, Non-Fiction and True Crime
February 2016 Reference, Non-Fiction and True Crime
- Braly, Malcolm, False Starts (autobiography) (r). Buy this book
Reprint of the classic con autobio. A memoir of "San Quenton and Other Prisons"
Romanko, Karen A., Television's Female Spies and Crimefighters...Buy this book...Kindle it!
The subtitle boasts of "600 Characters and Shows, 1950s to the Present" and that seems about right. It's essentially an encyclopedia, featuring capsule summaries sorted by both character and the show they appeared on, and an index further sorts them out by actress. A lot of fun, and they even include a few publicity stills and the like. But man, there have been a lot of goofy shows.
December 2015 Reference, Non-Fiction and True Crime
Block, Lawrence, Writing the Novel from Plot to Print to Pixel ...Buy this book...Kindle it!
Long awaited update of 1978 classic, one of the best writing books ever, dragged kicking and screaming into the digital age. But Block, still one of publishing's shrewdest tacticians for decades, holds true to his original thesis, that every novel is different, and so is every novelist; his aim is to give you the tools to enable you to find your own way. Absolutely essential.
November 2015 Reference, Non-Fiction and True Crime
- Aldous, Steve, The World of Shaft.. Buy this book
Pretty much all you'd ever want to know about Shaft, the private eye who digs like a private sex machine with all the chicks. Billed as "A Complete Guide to the Novels, Comic Strip, Films and Television Series," the book focusses quite a bit on the trials and tribulations of Shaft's creator, Ernest Tidyman, drawing from his own personal papers, and then revisits the whole Shaft world: the novels (by Tidyman and others), the films, the long-lost newspaper comic strip and the series' upcoming return to the printed page, and, supposedly, to the big screen. Can you dig it?
- Deitche, Scott, Cocktail Noir...Buy this book...Kindle it!
An ambitious look at the connections between booze, the mob, film, and writers, covering everything from "From Gangsters and Gin Joints to Gumshoes and Gimlets," how Prohibition (the first war on drugs) gave us criminal empires and the scoop on Al Capone's tastes in rye to some of the favorite watering holes (and tipples) of hard-boiled and noir authors (Chandler, Cain, Hammett, etc.) and how to make a gimlet -- you know, just in case Marlowe's ghost drops by. Generous shots of research, garnished with enough woozy asides, wisecracks and quotes to quench any thirst. Next round's on you.
- Fleming, Fergus, The Man with the Golden Typewriter...Buy this book..Buy the audio...Kindle it!
"Ian Fleming's James Bond Letters," compiled by his son. 'Nuff said.
October 2015 Reference, Non-Fiction and True Crime
- Leovy, Jill, Ghettoside (r). Buy this book..Kindle it!
Black lives may matter (to some of us anyway), but the ongoing epidemic of black-on-black homicide doesn't seem to even come up on the radar of a surprisingly large number of Americans. Which is what makes this non-fiction book such a Taser to our collective apathy. Crime reporter Leovy follows one LAPD detective who does give a damn, and uses him as a springboard to crack open the whole ugly mess of racism, politics, cultural and societal malfunction and downright ignorance that have lead us here. An angry piece of literary journalism that goes far beyond just true crime, and tears right into the guts of cheap, talking-point cynicism.
September 2015 Reference, Non-Fiction and True Crime
- Evans, Chad A., Vinnie Calvino's World: A Noir Guide to Southeast Asia. Buy this book..Kindle it!
A long overdue appreciation of Christopher G. Moore's Shamus-winning P.I. series featuring our man in Thailand, Vincent Calvino, an ex-pat New York City cop turned Bangkok private peeper. Go Global!
- Harkup, Kathryn, A is for Arsenic: The Poisons of Agatha Christie. Buy this book..Buy the audio..Kindle it!
Christie was not only the Grande Dame of Crime Fiction -- she was also the Queen of Poison. More than any other mystery writer, Christie knew her stuff -- never just slipping a fatal random mickey into someone's cuppa, but using knowledge gleaned from her war-time work in pharmacies to bump off off murder victims with a wide variety of toxic substances. Harkup, a chemist herself, devote each chapter to a specific book and the (often surprising) poison used, providing its historical and scientific background, and the often ingenious ways Christie utilized it. Morbid? Maybe. But utterly fascinating, and a wake up call to those who dismiss Christie out of hand as a mere "cozy" writer. Best served with a nice cup of tea -- but best make it yourself.
- Ward, Nathan, The Lost Detective: Becoming Dashiell Hammett (bio). Buy this book..Buy the audio..Kindle it!
Of course we're still reading Hammett's work 90 years later because he was a great writer -- not because he worked for a few much ballyhooed years as a REAL! LIVE! DETECTIVE! The author deserves huge kudos for going beyond the usual "print the legend" stuff, and actually calling Hammett (or his ghost) on some of the stories from his days as a Pinkerton op. Not that it changes one bit my love for Hammett's writing, but it's about time Hammett's career as a detective wasn't just glossed over. Definitely a refreshing wake up call, fascinating and essential for anyone who gives a damn about detective fiction and good writing.
August 2015 Reference, Non-Fiction and True Crime
- Beran, Michael Knox, Murder By Candlelight. Buy this book...Kindle it!
True crime porn, or whatever you want to call it, isn't new. Back in the early nineteenth century, a series of gruesome crimes shocked, fascinated and revolted the population. Here the author details both the the era's most notorious murders and the impact they had on society, and raises probing questions about our own current day obsession with the macabre.
- Gifford, Justin, Street Poison: The Biography of Iceberg Slim. Buy this book...Buy the audio...Kindle it!
You say that Slim was a mean mutha? One of the most influential crime writers of the last century, finally gets a decent biography. Can ya dig it?
April 2015 Reference, Non-Fiction and True Crime
- Hubin, Allen J., Crime Fiction IV: A Comprehensive Bibliography 1749-2010 (revised)...Buy the CD-ROM
The latest (and possibly last) installment in the landmark reference series, listing almost every English-language mystery ever written. His original edition instantly became a touchstone for mystery geeks everywhere, and this revised edition, updated to 2010, is purportedly the last CD edition. There are links by author, book, story, pseudonym, by co-author, contents, chronology, and even by movies based on the author's books, and works about the author. The CD-ROM lists for a mere $49.95, while the original print edition clocked in somewhere around $400 or so back at the dawn of time. Do the math. For additional information, head to Locus Online.
March 2015 Reference, Non-Fiction and True Crime
- Barnes, Melvyn, Francis Duridge: A Centenary Appreciation
An annotated listing of the works of Francis Durbridge, the creator of iconic Britsh radio eye Paul Temple.
- Block, Lawrence, The Crime of Our Lives...Kindle it!
Block does it again, cobbling together a book out of bits and pieces of other books. His previous instant book, Afterthoughts, cleverly rounded up the introductions he'd written for his own books; this one rounds up the articles, essays and introductions he's written over the years for other people's books. It makes for a fascinating and entertaining account one man's take on crime fiction over the years. Witty, provocative, cranky and affectionate, it's a cheeky and rollicking read not to be missed, as Block pays tribute to, among others, Chandler, Hammett, Westlake, McBain, Gar Haywood, Spillane and Gorman.
- White, Kate, editor, The Mystery Writers of America Cookbook...Buy this book...Kindle it!
"Wickedly Good Meals and Desserts to Die For" by the likes of Lee Child, Max Allan and Barbara Collins,Mary Higgins Clark, Harlan Coben, Bill Pronzini, David Housewright, Sara Paretsky, Gillian Flynn, Sue Grafton, Richard Castle, Twist Phelan, James Patterson, Jacqueline Winspear, Louise Penny and Scott Turow.
December 2014 Reference, Non-Fiction and True Crime
November 2014 Reference, Non-Fiction and True Crime
McGinnis, Robert E., & Art Scott, The Art of Robert E. McGinnis (art book)...Buy this book
The legendary illustrator Robert E. McGinnis did it all: movie posters, magazines and, of course, about a zillion paperback covers by the likes of everyone from Brett Halliday to Carter Brown, and one look at this handsomely presented volume (put together by long-time McGinnis aficiando Art Scott, will simply have you howling for more, more, more.
October 2014 Reference, Non-Fiction and True Crime
- Cooper, Kim, The Raymond Chandler Map of Los Angeles (map)...Buy the map
Yep, an actual map, spotlighting actual locations taken from Chandler's works (including the films) and his life.
- Mann, William J., Tinseltown (true crime) . Buy this book . Buy the audio . Kindle it!
The subtitle promises "Murder, Madness and Morphine at the Dawn of Hollywood" -- what more could you want? The murder of hot shot film director William Desmond Taylor is still unsolved, but Mann certainly presents a compelling case. Hollywood as Babylon? You're soaking in it.
September 2014 Reference, Non-Fiction and True Crime
- Westlake, Donald, The Getaway Car (non-fiction) ..Buy this book..Kindle it!
Bits and pieces of a writer's life, including unpublished fiction, parts of an uncompleted autobiography, assorted correspondence, an extended history of private eye fiction and even a recipe for something called "Sloth à la Dortmunder.
July 2014 Reference, Non-Fiction and True Crime
- Duncan, Paul, & Jurgen Muller, Film Noir: 100 All-Time Favorites.. Buy this book
What with all the whiskey fumes and cigarette smoke getting in their eyes, sometimes movies can go too fast for you to catch all the cinematic nuances. So along comes this hefty five-pound slab of a book to lend a hand. It's crammed with loads of glorious photos (many in glorious black and white!) and thoughtful essays on what the authors consider the 100 greatest examples of the genre, from early, ground zero German and French silent films right through the classic period and all the way to such modern neo-noir outliers as Black Swan, Sin City and The Dark Knight. Yummy.
June 2014 Reference, Non-Fiction and True Crime
- Dugain, Marc, Avenue of the Giants (true crime).. Buy this book. Kindle it!
Compelling story of real-life seven foot tall American serial killer Al Kenner who prowled the states in the 60s and 70s.
- Kabatchnik, Amnon, Blood on the Stage: 480 B.C. to 1600 A.D... Buy this book. Kindle it!
Subtitled "An Annotated Repertoire," this is the latest volume in Kabatchnik's staggeringly ambitious project to list the theatrical milestones of "murder, mystery and mayhem" throughout history. Other volumes range from 1900-1925, 1925-1950, and 1950-1975, but this one reaches a lot further back, and really shows the depth of the author's scholarship (and obsession), as he tackles the earliest of theatrical murder mysteries, covering everything from Prometheus Bound by Aeschylus (480 B.C.) to Hamlet by some cat named Shakespeare (c. 1600 A.D.), with well-researched entries on works by Sophocles, Christopher Marlowe, Euripedes, Thomas Kyd, Seneca, The Wakefield Master and others. Bravo!
May 2014 Reference, Non-Fiction and True Crime
- Dunn, George A. (editor), Veronica Mars and Philosophy: Investigating the Mysteries of Life (Which is a Bitch Until You Die)....Buy this book
Part of the popular Blackwell Philosophy and Pop Culture Series, a weird combination of ching-ching marketing and a serious discussion of serious philosophical issues raised by various popular pop culture phenomena, from Batman to The Simpsons. Next stop, Neptune High.
- Rolfe, Lee, From Jack to Jodi... and Other Criminal Matters (non-fiction). Buy the book
A collection of quizzes, over 400 of them, on all matters of crime, both true and fictional.
- Spencer, Shawn, & Burton Guster, Psych's Guide to Crime Fighting for the Totally Unqualified.. Buy the book
Perhaps not as thorough as The Hardy Boys Detective Handbook, and with less recipes than The Nancy Drew Cookbook, this handsome volume nonetheless fills that annoying gap on your shelf between the two, with totally awesome tips on setting up a bitchin' detective office, how to pick up chicks at a crime scene and other pointers on achieving crime-fighting awesomeness. Written by Shawn and Gus from the TV show. Sure.
February 2014 Reference, Non-Fiction and True Crime
- Cline, Sally, Dashiell Hammett: Man of Mystery....Buy this book...Buy the audiobook
In a brief, roughly ten year burst of creativity, Dashiell Hammett pretty much changed the face of crime fiction, adding grit and literary heft to the genre -- and then he inexplicably quit writing for the last thirty years of his messy, controversial life -- a mystery that still hasn't been cracked. But that doesn'ty stop biographers from trying. This punchy new and apparently agenda-free bio gives Hammett's messy, controversial life another shake, hoping something new will fall out. Cline is to be commended for cutting to the chase, sidestepping much of the revisionism of previous biographies and trying to get down to some sort of truth, as well as weighing in on the literary side of things, all while trying to put everything into the context of the times. You can argue with some of her conclusions, but this seems to be the most authoritative attempt so far -- or at least until the next one comes out.
- Sloniowski, Jeannette & Marilyn Rose, Detecting Canada: Essays on Canadian Crime Fiction, Television, and Film....Buy this book
Touting itself as "the first serious book-length study of crime writing in Canada," this scholarly tome contains thirteen essays on some of Canadaís most popular crime writers, including Peter Robinson, Giles Blunt, Gail Bowen, Thomas King, Michael Slade, Margaret Atwood, and Anthony Bidulka, and takes itself very seriously indeed. "Mounties and Metaphysics in Canadian Film and Television," anyone?
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