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”

Charlie Huston: Six Bad Things

I liked Six Bad Things, but not nearly as much as its predecessor Caught Stealing. In first novel Hank Thompson is a basically ordinary guy abruptly thrust into an over-the-top noir situation; by the time the second novel opens, Thompson isn’t so much a regular Joe anymore, so the book lacks the charm of theContinue reading “Charlie Huston: Six Bad Things”

Charlie Huston: Caught Stealing

What if somebody had a heart attack reading an exciting novel, and the Surgeon General determined that some novels ought to have medical warnings, and an MPAA-like board — the Literary Medical Review Committee, say — was formed to review and rate books? Then Caught Stealing would have a banner on the front cover thatContinue reading “Charlie Huston: Caught Stealing”

Charlaine Harris: Dead Until Dark

I’m embarassed about it, but over the past few years I’ve read several books in the burgeoning “paranormal romance” sub-genre (and returned several more to the library when I decided they really weren’t worth my time). I’m perversely intrigued by the extent to which the genre has calcifyied around a single template, Laurell Hamilton’s “AnitaContinue reading “Charlaine Harris: Dead Until Dark”

Steven Hall: The Raw Shark Texts

The Raw Shark Texts is an out-of-the-park homerun of a book for me, soaring over the Monster, bound for who knows where. My friend Marty convinced me to read it with enigmatic remarks about how he didn’t want to tell me anything about it, but thought I’d like it. That seems like a wise strategy.Continue reading “Steven Hall: The Raw Shark Texts”

Roger Highfield: The Science of Harry Potter

I read this book in a continual state of bemusement about the audience for which it was written, wondering if, in fact, it exists. Presumably, people in the “buy anything that says Harry Potter” camp are supposed to pick it up. I was mildly intrigued because my biggest gripe with Rowling’s series is that theContinue reading “Roger Highfield: The Science of Harry Potter”

Lauren Henderson: Freeze My Margarita

It may partly be “too many books in the same series back-to-back” syndrome, but Freeze My Margarita felt much more tired and formulaic than the previous book in the Sam Jones series, Black Rubber Dress, and several particulars bugged me: The opening scene is set in a D/s club. It seems to be set thereContinue reading “Lauren Henderson: Freeze My Margarita”

Lauren Henderson: Black Rubber Dress

I liked Black Rubber Dress quite well right up to the final chapters. Sculptress and amateur-sleuth-by-virtue-of-nosiness Sam Jones (don’t call her Samantha) sells a piece of artwork to a London investment bank, which — along with the titular garment she wears to the unveiling — gives her an entrée to, and a pleasantly outside perspectiveContinue reading “Lauren Henderson: Black Rubber Dress”

John Harwood: The Ghost Writer

Harwood’s The Ghost Writer is a tour-de-force of the “is it a haint, or ain’t it” style of ghost(?) story, and simultaneously an impressive feat of post-modern multi-level narrative construction. Gerard Freeman keeps finding ghost stories — both whole and as tantalizing fragments — written by a mysterious relative, which the reader gets to absorbContinue reading “John Harwood: The Ghost Writer”

Martin H. Greenberg and John Helfers (eds); Slipstreams

Pretty much ever since the genres science fiction, fantasy, and horror have existed as distinct marketing categories, there have been periodic movements seeking to un-define them as such. In the 60’s there was “The New Wave.” In the 80’s some bruited about the awkward, demi-hemispherist phrase “North American magical realism.” And more recently, an unrulyContinue reading “Martin H. Greenberg and John Helfers (eds); Slipstreams”