Steve Hely: How I Became a Famous Novelist

How I Became a Famous Novelist is a tidy, and very funny, example of simultaneous multi-layer cake having/eating. Bitter Pete Tarslaw decides the best way to get back at his ex-girlfriend is to write a chart-topping novel. He inventories the best seller list, discards genre fiction as requiring too much actual work, and decides toContinue reading “Steve Hely: How I Became a Famous Novelist”

Joe Hill: Horns

I started reading Horns with one of those ebook free sample chapters. Hill hooked me with his first four sentences: Ignatius Martin Perrish spent the night drunk and doing terrible things. He woke the next morning with a headache, put his hands to his temples, and felt something unfamiliar, a pair of knobby pointed protuberances.Continue reading “Joe Hill: Horns”

Chelsea Handler: Chelsea Chelsea Bang Bang

Here are some of the page-count inflating techniques on display in Chelsea Chelsea Bang Bang: half-page half-tone snapshots a purported multi-page e-mail* thread between Handler and her siblings a purported multi-page letter of complaint from a tenant of her father’s rental property whining (in multiple chapters) about the need to write another “stupid book.” OtherwiseContinue reading “Chelsea Handler: Chelsea Chelsea Bang Bang”

Chelsea Handler: Are You There Vodka? It’s Me, Chelsea; My Horizontal Life

I enjoyed these books more when I stopped thinking of them as literal, factual memoirs, and more as fiction in the uncomfortable-funny vein of Michael Scott or David Brent. Handler’s character is less a poster-girl for bad decision-making (although there’s some of that for sure) than a celebration of unchecked id. I suspect for muchContinue reading “Chelsea Handler: Are You There Vodka? It’s Me, Chelsea; My Horizontal Life”

John Harwood: The Seance

I liked Harwood’s previous novel The Ghost Writer very much. The Séance shares several of The Ghost Writer‘s hallmarks: reserved, chilly, almost 19th-century flavored prose*; dark, complex and secret-spiked family histories; an elaborate, almost meta-textual, structure with multiple layers of nested stories; a brooding, slow-growing aura of menace; and lingering questions about which — ifContinue reading “John Harwood: The Seance”

Charlie Huston: The Mystic Arts of Erasing All Signs of Death

I didn’t read any of the jacket copy before starting The Mystic Arts of Erasing All Signs of Death, so all I knew about it to start was second-hand information that it had received a lukewarm response from Huston’s fans. And admittedly it was the first of the Huston novels I’ve read that didn’t snagContinue reading “Charlie Huston: The Mystic Arts of Erasing All Signs of Death”

Zack Hemple: Watching Baseball Smarter

Watching Baseball Smarter touches on so many aspects of the sport that it invites facile criticism for the many things it doesn’t cover. But I think this is missing the point. Watching Baseball Smarter would arguably be improved by graphics showing the typical path of various pitches — but there are plenty of other sourcesContinue reading “Zack Hemple: Watching Baseball Smarter”

Charlie Huston: A Dangerous Man

I had an educated guess as to how A Dangerous Man would bring Huston’s Hank Thompson trilogy to full circle: some naif would bumble into Hank’s way in much the same way Hank stumbled into some nasty heavies in Caught Stealing; Hank would understimate the noob as he himself was once underestimated. Hank might manageContinue reading “Charlie Huston: A Dangerous Man”

Charlaine Harris: Club Dead

I’m still enjoying the Harris’ southern vampire series more than enough to keep reading, but in this third entry in the series, the genre-defying elements that appealed to me so much in the first novel are definitely on the wane. Club Dead does not equally blend waitress Sookie Stackhouse dealing with both normal and supernaturalContinue reading “Charlaine Harris: Club Dead”

Charlie Huston: The Shotgun Rule

When writing about Huston I have to resist the temptation of tired metaphors: electricity, velocity, whips, blisters. They’re especially inappropriate, because one of Huston’s tricks for avoiding noir clichés is to avoid metaphor and simile almost completely. Huston’s crafts terse, almost reportorial, prose enlivened by a practiced eye for the telling detail, and an earContinue reading “Charlie Huston: The Shotgun Rule”