Saturday Miscellany—5/30/20

Once again, the last week of the month translates into a short collection of links and new releases (a short work week here in the States probably contributes to that, too). Still, I hope you find something fun to read here.

Odds n ends about books and reading that caught my eye this week. You’ve probably seen some/most/all of them, but just in case:
bullet 6 Unconventional Tips for Building a Reading Habit—I’ve shared many posts over the years about creating a reading habit–this is the most unconventional (truth in advertising!), it’s possibly also the best list. I can think of many people who’ve done some/all of these and become readers (possibly more of them than those who’ve done the usual steps)
bullet On The Tolkienic Hero
bullet Interview with M. W. Craven—the promotional build-up for The Curator goes into full-swing.
bullet Five Books That Will Make Your Child a Future Crime Writer—I had completely forgotten about the third book she talks about here…Some good suggestions for readers young or older.
bullet It’s Not You, It’s Me..—one blogger bravely makes her stand on the paper vs. ebook debate. She’s not wrong.
bullet What is the Best Fantasy Mode of Transportation?—This episode of the Great Fantasy Debate features Marie Lu and Naomi Novik

This Week's New Releases That I’m Excited About and/or You’ll Probably See Here Soon:
bullet Fair Warning by Michael Connelly—On the one hand, I don’t remember the Jack McEvoy novels as being particular favorites. On the other, I remember being incredibly gripped by them. And, hey, it’s Connelly. Gotta read it.

Lastly I’d like to say hi and extend a warm welcome towonderouspages for following the blog this week. Don’t be a stranger, and use that comment box, would you?

The History of Tom Jones, a Foundling by Henry Fielding: BOOK VII., v.-x.

Fridays with the Foundling
Tom Jones Original CoverI assume the problem is with me, I really do. But man, oh, man—Book VII is just not clicking with me. The story’s fine, but I’m not crazy with the pacing. Fielding’s narration isn’t doing much for me, either.

So, there’s some (figurative) kissing and making up between Sophia and her father as well as her father and her aunt. Which starts to give you a dash of hope, but then Blifil and Mr. Western get their heads together and things go downhill. We’ll start with Western talking Sophia into another meeting with Blifil.

Scenes like this, when painted at large, afford, as we have observed, very little Entertainment to the Reader. Here, therefore, we shall strictly adhere to a rule of Horace; by which Writers are directed to pass over all those Matters which they despair of placing in a shining Light;—a Rule, we conceive, of excellent Use as well to the Historian as to the Poet; and which, if followed, must at least have this good Effect, that many a great Evil (for so all great Books are called) would thus be reduced to a small one.

I do appreciate him sparing us that scene.

Blifil is so determined to beat Tom that he cons both Blifil and Allworthy (the former being very predisposed to believe him) into thinking that Sophia’s come around and arrangements are made to get married the next day. Her maid overhears Western making further arrangements and informs Sophia.

Sophia considers suicide at this point, but her maid dissuades her from that. So, she decides to run away from home—she has a friend in London who’ll take her in for a bit.

We get a quick glimpse of Tom—he gets some bad directions and ends up in a different location than he’d intended. He finds himself in an inn with a Quaker gentleman distraught over his daughter’s marriage to a poor man. So, that goes over about as well as you’d think. Details about Tom’s background and circumstance are circulated amongst people at the Inn—suddenly, his Quaker friend makes himself scarce and the landlord decides that he can’t use a room. So, Tom sleeps in the dining room—where it’s easy to keep an eye on this obvious scoundrel.

Hopefully, things get a bit better (in my own mind or the book, whichever is applicable) from here. There’s still a long way to go in this book, there’s plenty of time for that.

Classic Spenser: Promised Land by Robert B. Parker

Classic Spenser

Promised Land

Promised Land

by Robert B. Parker
Series: Spenser, #4

Mass Market Paperback, 218 pg.
Dell Publishing, 1976

Read: April 30, 2020
Grab a copy from your local indie bookstore!

“Whose picture is on a one-hundred dollar bill?” I said.

“Nelson Rockefeller.” [Susan said]

“Wrong.”

“David Rockefeller?”

“Never mind.”

“Laurence Rockefeller?”

“Where would you like to go to lunch?”

“You shouldn’t have shown me the money. I was going to settle for Ugi’s steak and onion subs. Now I’m thinking about Pier 4.”

“Pier 4 it is…Come on, we’ll go back to my place and suit up.”

“When you get a client,” Susan said, “you galvanize into action, don’t you?”

“Yes, ma’am. I move immediately to the nearest restaurant.”

Harv Shepard’s wife walked out on him and he wants Spenser to find her and bring her home. Spenser agrees to the first part of that—he’ll find her, make sure she’s healthy and under no duress, but he won’t force her to come home. Shepard agrees to that, so Spenser starts digging. It takes him practically no time at all to discover that their relationship wasn’t as good as Shepard insists it was (Shepard doesn’t seem to find his wife leaving home to be a big clue)—and that Pam herself might not be as happy or well-adjusted as she let on.

It doesn’t take Spenser that long at all to find Pam and see that she’s okay. She’s not that interested in coming home, and Spenser’s prepared to let it lie like that. But she soon calls Spenser for help—and like the knight errant he is, Spenser obliges. She’s found herself neck-deep in serious legal problems and it’ll take an ingenious plan to get her out of it while not letting criminals get away with anything.

The trickier part of the equation comes from a man called Hawk.* When Spenser first arrives at Shepard’s house,

Shepard appeared from the door past the stairs. With him was a tall black man with a bald head and high cheekbones. He had on a powder blue leisure suite and a pink silk shirt with a big collar. The shirt was unbuttoned to the waist and the chest and stomach that showed were hard and unadorned as ebony. He took a pair of sunglasses from the breast pocket of the jacket and put them on, he stared at me over their rims until very slowly the lenses covered his eyes and he started at me through them.

* Yeah, I couldn’t resist.

As Spenser soon tells Shepard, Hawk’s presence means that he’s got bigger problems than a missing wife. Shepard denies it, but Spenser believes he’s into a loan shark and/or mobster for a pretty large sum and is behind on payments. It won’t be long until Hawk is hurting Shepard—if not more than that—in order to get this money.

Hawk and Spenser go far back—they used to fight on the same heavyweight card and come into frequent contact in their current occupations. Hawk’s a freelancer and is one of the best in Boston. He’s not a good guy, but he has a code. There’s a mutual respect between the two and Spenser is quick to defend Hawk against Shepard’s racial slurs. Hawk as a character deserves more space than I’m giving him at the moment—but that’s all I can do for now. I’ll probably find a way to give him a few paragraphs in the post about the next book.

So not only does Spenser need to get Pam out of her legal mess, he takes on getting Harv out of his illegal mess. He does so through a complicated set-up assisted by a couple of the funniest cops I remember reading about. It’s a shame that neither of these reappear the way that Healy, Belson and Quirk do (although, it’d be hard to take them seriously). It’s hard to explain, you’ll need to read them for yourselves.

Toward the end of the previous book, Mortal Stakes it looked like Spenser is getting more serious about Susan and less serious about his other dating relationship with Brenda Loring—there’s a reference to Brenda early on in this book*, but by the end, Susan and Spenser are as close to married as they’re ever going to get—essentially pledging monogamy without the legal/religious contract. This is huge for the genre at the time—and bigger for the character.

* Unless I’m mistaken, that’s the last reference to Brenda outside of a short story in the series. [Update: She’s mentioned in the next book, so I read the reference about 5 hours after I published this]

While Spenser tries to extricate the Shepards from the trouble they’ve found themselves in—and hopefully provide them with the opportunity to work on their marriage (at least enough to make a calm decision about its fate), Parker uses the Shepards as well as Susan and Spenser to discuss second-wave feminism in a somewhat abstract fashion, but also in concrete terms as it applies to each of these couples. Parker takes the opportunity to opine a bit on isms and how they tend to swallow the individual—where he prefers to consider such topics (this is assuming that Spenser and Parker align on these ideas, but there’s no reason to suspect they don’t). The reader may not agree with them any of the views they read in these pages, but they’re fairly well reasoned.

In Promised Land, we meet Hawk and Susan and Spenser become permanent (for lack of a better term). These two things are the final pieces to come into place as the foundation for the series—they’ll take a more final form in the next book, but we have them all now. Every other book in the series is built on what’s introduced up to this point and finalized in The Judas Goat. For a series that’s lasted 44 years after the publication of this one, that’s quite the accomplishment.

A significant portion of American Detective Fiction since then will be shaped by this, too—people will be reacting against this set-up or putting their series in a similar vein. Personally, I’ll get to the point (eventually) where Susan stops adding anything to the series. But I’ve yet to tire of Hawk. He may be the kind of guy who should spend the rest of his life behind bars, but he’s also the kind of character than you can’t help but love when he shows up on the page. We’ll revisit Hawk (and his contribution to the series) later, but for now, it’s just good to sit back and enjoy him.

You take all the above, mix them together—and you’ve got a true classic. Parker looks at marriage and feminism—and, of course, honor—while his protagonist matches wits with a mobster. Told with Parker’s trademark style and wit. Few things are as good as that—fewer yet are better.


5 Stars

This post contains an affiliate link. If you purchase from it, I will get a small commission at no additional cost to you. As always, opinions are my own.

BOOK SPOTLIGHT: The Tempus Project by Antony Johnston

Today I’m pleased to welcome the Book Tour for the Cyber Thriller The Tempus Project by Antony Johnston. Following this spotlight post, I’ll be giving my take on the novel here in a bit. But let’s start by learning a little about this here book, okay?


Book Details:

Book Title: The Tempus Project by Antony Johnston
Release date: May 25, 2020
Publisher: Lightning Books
Format: Paperback/Ebook
Length: 353 pages

Book Blurb:

In The Exphoria Code, MI6 officer and elite hacker Brigitte Sharp foiled a terror attack on London that used stolen military drone software to deliver a ‘dirty bomb’.

Now Bridge is back, battling a series of hacks and ransom-ware attacks, masterminded by a hacker known only as ‘Tempus’, who is targeting politicians and government officials with impunity.

Discovering that this campaign is linked to a cyber-attack on the London G20 summit, she is drawn into the dark-web world of crypto-currencies, Russian hackers and an African rebel militia.

In another compelling cyber-thriller from the creator of Atomic Blonde, Bridge races against time to prevent a disaster that could alter the balance of global power forever.

About Antony Johnston:

Antony JohnstonAntony Johnston is a New York Times bestselling writer. The Charlize Theron movie Atomic Blonde is based on his graphic novel; his Brigitte Sharp thriller novels are critically acclaimed; and his first videogame, Dead Space, redefined its genre.

Antony’s books, graphic novels, and videogames include The Exphoria CodeThe Tempus ProjectThe FuseDaredevilShang-ChiShadow of Mordor, the Alex Rider graphic novels and the adaptation of Alan Moore‘s ‘lost screenplay’ Fashion Beast.

He also hosts the podcast Writing And Breathing. Find him online at twitter.com/AntonyJohnston and antonyjohnston.com.

He lives in Lancashire.

Social Networks:

Twitter ~ Facebook ~ Website ~ Instagram

Purchase Links:

Amazon UK ~ Amazon US ~ Waterstones ~ Foyles ~ Google Books ~ Kobo

My thanks to damppebbles blog tours for the invitation to participate in this tour and the materials (including a copy of the novel) they provided.

Saturday Miscellany—5/23/20

Odds n ends about books and reading that caught my eye this week. You’ve probably seen some/most/all of them, but just in case:
          bullet I’ve been starting off with ways to support Indie Bookstores during all the shutdown, etc. I don’t have a broad, all of us can do it, for this week. But here’s what my local store is starting, which is a great idea. Book a Private Shopping Experience at Rediscovered Books—are stores near you doing clever things like this? I’m curious about what strategies individual stores are taking up.
          bullet On the origin of the word “blurb.”—One of those things you didn’t know you wanted to know.
          bullet Why We Need Family Adventure Stories
          bullet Penguin Worlds Book Club: Jim Butcher in conversation with Patrick Rothfuss—A fun chat between the two
          bullet The Great Fantasy Debate continues with What is the Best Fantasy Mode of Transportation? with authors Marie Lu and Naomi Novik
          bullet A lot of people were talking about reviews this week, some of those that stuck out to me are:
                    bullet Markk over on Booklikes asked this provocative question: Why do YOU review books?
                    bullet Why Do I Review Books: An Answer to A Question—Moonlight Reader’s response to Marrk
                    bullet Why Should You Write Book Reviews?—Ramona Mead takes on the topic from a different angle
                    bullet Why I don’t believe in unbiased reviews—Not only does The Orangutan Librarian have some good things to say about the craft (for lack of a less pretentious term), but she includes
          bullet Obligated Reading: A Book Blogger’s Conundrum—I have tried to write a post like this several times, and it just comes out whiny.
          bullet Why I Love Reading Fantasy (Hint: Dragons Are Involved)—a great list

A Book-ish Related Podcast Episode (or two) you might want to give a listen to:
          bullet Blood Brothers Podcast Episode 9 with M.W. Craven—I had a lot of fun listening to this one, and am all the more eager for Craven’s The Curator now.

This Week's New Releases That I’m Excited About and/or You’ll Probably See Here Soon:
          bullet The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes by Suzanne Collins—You may have heard of Collins YA series, The Hunger Games, it got a little bit of buzz a few years ago. Well, here’s the prequel. Which seems to have scared almost the entire publishing industry away from publishing anything else this week.
          bullet One Man by Harry Connolly and Stephen Bel Davies—Connolly’s One Man is out on audio!

Lastly I’d like to say hi and extend a warm welcome to Matt Sweeney, indiefan20, Susan and Bookworm Blogger for following the blog this week. Don’t be a stranger, and use that comment box, would you?

The History of Tom Jones, a Foundling by Henry Fielding: BOOK VI., xii.-VII., iv.

Fridays with the Foundling
Tom Jones Original CoverWe start off this week seeing what Sophia was up to in around the letter Tom wrote her as he was leaving town (I really should’ve read this chapter a couple of weeks ago)—there’s not much there, but a little bit of humor involving Black George and his conscience. Mr. Western and his sister get into an argument over the way he’s raised Sophia, and he essentially gives his daughter over to her management.

We then move on to the next Book, and as usual, we begin with Fielding treating us to another digression and commentary. This time his focus is on the world as a stage. Unlike most (for example, Shakespeare), Fielding focuses not on those who strut and fret on the sage, but on the audience. Which is an interesting way to do it, you have to admit. He closes with this reminder about judging:

Upon the whole, then, the man of candour and of true understanding is never hasty to condemn. He can censure an imperfection, or even a vice, without rage against the guilty party. In a word, they are the same folly, the same childishness, the same ill-breeding, and the same ill-nature, which raise all the clamours and uproars both in life and on the stage. The worst of men generally have the words rogue and villain most in their mouths, as the lowest of all wretches are the aptest to cry out low in the pit.

With some encouragement from Blifil, Tom resolves to take to the Ocean, while the Western household is in turmoil—we get more conversations between Sophia and her aunt; Sophia and her father; her aunt and her father all about how Sophia— has to marry Blifil and her steadfast refusal to do so.

These chapters really feature a lot of talking, but very little actual communication—after the last couple of weeks, full of action, this was really quiet. It was all about setting the stage, I just hope the stage is fully set for a bit. I’m really curious about what Tom has in mind for his expedition.

BOOK BLITZ: The Strange Book of Jacob Boyce by Tom Gillespie

I’m pleased to host a Book Blitz for Tom Gillespie’s The Strange Book of Jacob Boyce today, a book that defies a snappy one-sentence synopsis.

Book Details:

Book Title: The Strange Book of Jacob Boyce by Tom Gillespie
Publisher: Vine Leaves Press
Release date: July 21, 2020
Format: Ebook/Paperback
Length: 298 pages
Purchase Link: Amazon UK/Amazon US

Book Blurb:

A spiralling obsession. A missing wife. A terrifying secret. Will he find her before it’s too late?

When Dr Jacob Boyce’s wife goes missing, the police put it down to a simple marital dispute. Jacob, however, fears something darker. Following her trail to Spain, he becomes convinced that Ella’s disappearance is tied to a mysterious painting whose hidden geometric and numerical riddles he’s been obsessively trying to solve for months. Obscure, hallucinogenic clues, and bizarre, larger-than-life characters, guide an increasingly unhinged Jacob through a nightmarish Spanish landscape to an art forger’s studio in Madrid, where he comes face-to-face with a centuries-old horror, and the terrifying, mind-bending, truth about his wife.

About the Author:

Tom Gillespie grew up in a small town just outside Glasgow. After completing a Masters in English at Glasgow University, he spent the next ten years pursuing a musical career as a singer/songwriter, playing, recording and touring the UK and Europe with his band. He now lives in Bath with his wife, daughter and hyper-neurotic cat, where he works at the university as an English lecturer. Tom writes long and short stories. His stories have appeared in many magazines, journals and e-zines. He is co-author of Glass Work Humans-an anthology of stories and poems, published by Valley Press. Visit Tom at tom-gillespie.com.

My thanks to Love Books Group for the invitation to participate in this tour.

Love Books Group