Spies Wednesday, Apr 28 2010 

Truman Capote said:

“Writing has laws of perspective of light and shade just as painting does or music.”

Being a mystery writer, I have to agree with Truman on this one. Everyone has their favorite shading of genre. Adjust the variation of setting and pace and you may have a cozy. Add a trill of thrill and you have an action suspense novel.  Put your main character fighting against any number of governmental agencies or threats to it and you have a spy thriller.

Spy thrillers are not my personal favorite mystery genre, although I have read some good ones: le Carre”s novels were stunning, as were the Bourne series. Some of the earliest spy novels were made into delightful movies, like Hitchcock’s The 39 Steps.  I decided to let you in on the favorites of someone who should be an expert on the subject: Frederick Hitz, the former inspector general of the CIA. Here are his picks for the top four fictional agents.

Rudyard Kipling’s Kim: Hitz point out Kim’s excellent cover: an Anglo-Irishman who assume native dress and darken his face so he can pass as an India. Kim’s employer in provides institutional cover for British spies in India, using Kim at first to deliver news of troop movements along the Grand Truck Road.  Recruited to the service, Kim is sent to surveying school to perform surveys in the outback, where is keeps his eye on French and Russian intruders. Then Kim becomes a manservant to a wandering Tibetan Buddhist holy man, which gives him the freedom to travel anywhere in India. Hitz says Kim “has excellent spy instincts. He’s a watcher.”

James Bond: Think how many people would be disappointed if Hitz hadn’t hit on Ian Fleming’s Bond, James Bond. Hitz admits Bond “isn’t a very careful spy” but points to Dr. No and From Russia with Love as illustrating the great ops security which both show it does not pay to get too close to Mr. Bond. Booth manages to escape being swallowed up by a swamp-eating protective machine policing Dr. No’s Cayman Island. In Russia, Bond’s sidekick is “eliminated” by a KGB assassin trying to gun down 007, who of course, survives.

George Smiley in Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy is John le Carre’s creation. Described as “small, podgy and at best middle-aged, he was by appearance one of London’s meek who do not inherit the earth.” Interesting how appearances can be deceiving, isn’t it? And his gift of going relatively unnoticed made Smiley a master spy, one who knew that in his profession, to stay alive meant “there is no such thing as coincidence.” This was one case where casting got it absolutely correct in the BBC series when they hired Alec Guinness to play George.

Frederick Forsyth’s Jackal is meticulous in his trade and craft. In The Day of the Jackal Hitz notes “a maximum of preparation is required when you intend to assassinate a heavily guarded chief of state and want to survive the attack. Stealing multiple identities, adopting different guises, the Jackal is exhaustive in the minutia of his work. The famous ending revolves around an unanticipated simple human act of kindness.

Who would you add to Hitz’ hit list?

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo Monday, Apr 26 2010 

https://i2.wp.com/www.bookpage.com/the-book-case/wp-content/uploads/2010/03/the-girl-with-the-dragon-tattoo.jpg

Auntie M had so many friends recommend this book but never got around to reading it earlier in the year. Finally her writer pal Dr. Warren, Communications expert at GW Unie, sent her a copy.

Finally, I decided to see what the fuss was all about.

I read the first two chapters and was distracted by the publishing of The Blue Virgin (really, anyone could understand THAT) so by the time I picked it up again, I had to start all over to set the story and the characters in my mind. This is not a brain candy novel, ala’ Higgins Clark, to be devoured in one sitting on a sunny porch.

What it IS: a novel of mysteries, old and new; a fascinating character study of two of the most unusual protagonists living in a place where the mores and culture are different from the US; and a novel that explores the reactions to situations with often surprising results.

I find it tough to talk about the plot without giving much away, but suffice it to say that the lives of these two main characters, plus those of the others they intersect, will keep you riveted until you finish the book . . . and leave you wanting to read the next one.

Mikael Blomkvist is the publisher of a financial magazine.  When a twist in his life leaves him with open time, he is seduced into taking on the job of solving a murder that is over thirty years old.  Lisbeth Salander is the genius hacker he hires to assist him with his investigation. A troubled soul, Lisbeth has her own way of dealing with problems as they arise. She is the most unique character I’ve come across in recent memory.

This is a series of three; unfortunately for readers around the world, the author Stieg Larsson died before he could see the success of the world and the people he has created.

I’ll start Book II this weekend, The Girl Who Played with Fire, if all goes well.  I can’t wait~

Top 10 Train Thrillers Wednesday, Apr 21 2010 

AbeBooks.com had a listing of the top ten train thrillers Auntie M decided to share with you.

Strangers on a Train, by Patricia Highsmith in 1950, was made by Alfred Hitchcock into a wonderful movie. One of my faves.

https://i2.wp.com/img1.fantasticfiction.co.uk/images/n11/n57457.jpg

The Wheel Spins is an earlier thriller about meeting a stranger on a train. Done in 1936 by Ethel Lina White, Hitchcock turned this one into The Lady Vanishes.  Check out the original cover:

https://i1.wp.com/www.coverbrowser.com/image/popular-library/875-1.jpg

Agatha Christie’s 1933 Murder on the Orient Express has suave Hercule Poirot solving who stabbed a gentleman traveling on that famous train twelve times.  I didn’t know that in 1932, Graham Greene published a thriller also set on the Orient Express titled Stamboul Train. I’ll have to look for that one.

The Necropolis Railway is set in the golden age of steam, although Andrew Martin published it in 2002.  Dick Francis, that master of the racing mystery, set his thriller The Edge on a transcontinental train journey across Canada.  And the earliest of the recommendations is from 1890, Emile Zola’s La Bete Humaine, which takes place on the railway between Paris and Le Havre.

Agatha Christie makes the list a second time in 4.50 From Paddington, when Miss Marple investigates after a young woman on the same train sees a woman being strangled in a passing train. This is one of Christie’s best, in my humble opinion.

https://i2.wp.com/www.leurabooks.com.au/shop_image/product/023792.jpg

Christopher Isherwood set his novel Mr. Norris Changes Trains in pre-war 1935 Europe, with a chance meeting on a train. His novel Goodbye to Berlin is also mentioned.

The list concludes with John Godey’s The Taking of Pelham One Two Three. I confess to seeing both versions of this movie, but have never read the book.

And you thought train rides were boring…

Priceless Monday, Apr 19 2010 

Auntie M told you a few days ago that she was doing two readings/signings of her new book, The Blue Virgin, one in NYC and one on Long Island, along with Lauren Small and Nina Romano from the Screw Iowa book. After a presentation on the world of publishing and the rise of independent and self publishing, we each read from our works. Nina read from her two poetry books, Cooking Lessons and her newly published Coffeehouse Meditations. Lauren read from her historical novel, Choke Creek.

It was an interesting experience all around, in the company of good friends, and surrounded by others. In Manhattan we met a group from the IWWG, the International Women’s Writers Group, at the META Center, where we all had to take our shoes off! That audience was attentive, but most writers are struggling, so the sales were almost nonexistent. We appreciated the chance to tell our story and get the reading experience.

It was a different story on Long Island, where I used to live. My good friend Laura Hamilton organized an evening at her lovely log cabin home in Miller Place. A group of about 15 gathered for good food and drinks, and we were asked to read. Since the majority of these friends would be at our presentation the next day, we chose different sections to read from our books. The reading experience is always good, and we were well-received. It was lovely to be feted that way. Laura said she felt as though she had a literary salon on her house that night!

The Port Jefferson Library presentation was so well attended that the head librarian said we were welcome to come back any time! His Sunday programs usually garner an audience of 15 or so; we drew a crowd of over 40! Our presentation was again well-received, with astute questions afterwards that made it interesting for us. Our readings went well, also. But the best part for me was sitting at a table and having people lined up to have me sign their copy of my book~I said it would be priceless, and it was. Nina and Lauren sold books, I sold a bunch, and it was a great day to be an author with a book in print.

Anyone wishing to see their work in print, who has been through the traditional route without success, please consider self publishing or using an independent press such as Bridle Path Press. Check the link to read more about the community being developed by this unique press, whose mission statements includes: “This press will make NO money.”

Now there’s an intriguing thought for you!

Where I am Today Sunday, Apr 11 2010 

Today Nina, Lauren and Marni are presenting a program kicking off National Library Week at the Port Jefferson Library on New York’s Long Island.

The library has an active writers group who invited the Screw Iowa gals to talk about The End of the Book: Writing in a Changing World and to discuss the changing nature in the publishing business, and the rise of independent and self-publishing.

They will end the afternoon reading from their own books with a signing to follow.  What more could a writer ask for? An audience, a chance to read your own work, and maybe even to sell a few books.  Priceless.

Novels of Ideas Thursday, Apr 8 2010 

Auntie M wants to share the meat of a recent article she read, written by Rebecca Goldstein, the author of 36 Arguments for the Existence of God: A Work of Fiction. I confess I haven’t read her book, but the title alone will make me check it out.

Goldstein’s thesis in this article was for a “Five Best” series in the Wall Street Journal, and in this case, she’s chosen her top five novels of ideas, based on their characters, plot and more.

Up first is Herzog, Saul Bellows’ 1964 comedic tale where his protagonist addresses “immortal thinkers in grave earnestness, demanding of them relevance to his own very mortal predicament.  Herzog has been betrayed by his beautiful but neurotic wife with his best friend. He rails against the reality he’s facing, feeling betrayed by “the entire Western canon, not to speak of God, to whom he also dashes off a few choice lines.”

Bellows earns his spot for what Goldstein calls his “blend of high-mindedness and low farce…a rare form of tragic comedy, ‘King Lear’ as filtered through Milton Berle.” I’d never thought of it that way, but it fits.

Second is George Eliot’s superb Middlemarch. I came to read Eliot as an adult and became hooked. I learned from Goldstein that this novel was written  in 1873, only months after Eliot finished her translation of Spinoza’s “Ethica,” which highly influenced the work.  The book’s main plot follows protagonist Dorothea Brooke, who Goldstein describes as blundering “her way toward moral clarity, on the way making an unfortunate marriage to a dry pedant, Edward Casaubon.” The interlacing stories show Eliot’s mastery of weaving her study of ethics into wonderful novels.

Third is Thomas Mann’s 1951 The Holy Sinner. I admit right up front that although this was written the year I was born, I haven’t read it.  After the seriousness of his Doctor Faustus, Mann manages to bury “its seriousness beneath the seductions of storytelling.”  The book is set in medieval Europe, filled with sumptuous detail, and is based on the legend of a pope who was the offspring of incestuous brother-and-sister twins. It sounds made for the big screen.

Goldstein lists Iris Murdoch’s The Black Prince, from 1973, in fourth place.  Goldstein says she admires the way Murdoch “hides its high purpose under well-developed characters and an organic plot. She notes Murdoch’s philosophy follows that of Plato, “mistrusting enchantment, whether artistic, religious or erotic.” Yet in this novel, set in modern England, Murdoch underlines Plato’s suspicions before turning them upside down.

Fifth and final is Alan Lightmans’ 1993 Einstein’s Dreams, set in 1905, centering on an patent clerk named. . .Albert Einstein.  Albert’s nightly dreams on the nature of time are a “heady play of ideas” as Lightman “wrests irony, pathos and poetry out of the abstractions of physics, but the meaning of it all is viewed from the human perspective.”

Another one to add to my reading list.

The Blue Virgin is in my hot little hands Tuesday, Apr 6 2010 

Holding a copy of my novel in my hands was pretty close to the first time I held my son.  Okay, not as earth-shattering, but longed for longer and surely at my age, an accomplishment on its own.

The first sales are dribbling in, not to mention the carton I sent off to everyone in my Acknowledgments. It was amazing to me during my research phase who generous people where when I’d tell them I was writing an novel and wanted it to be as close to accurate as possible in their area of expertise. For the mere promise of a  mention in the hoped-for Acknowledgments page, I had the ear and emails of a Chief Superintendent from the Thames Valley Police. He went to far as to give me descriptions of the interior of the police station that is a setting in the novel. And his added information on the building where inquests take place became a scene I hadn’t planned in the book.

On Tuesday Auntie M leave town to head north for two readings/signings. Will let you know how that goes.

On Thursday, Nina Romano and Lauren Small, colleagues from Screw Iowa Writing Group (www.screwiowa.com) will be giving a presentation to the International Women’s Writers Guild. The subject hovers around the changes in publishing, with the rise of independent and self publishing. It dovetails nicely with the book our group has written: The End of the Book: Writing in a Changing World. (Available as an ebook at our site.)

Then it’s on to Long Island, my former home, for a second presentation and signing.

See you soon~

The Author

The Spellman Files Saturday, Apr 3 2010 

Auntie M has to admit that this book has been in her pile for a while.

https://i2.wp.com/www.ala.org/ala/mgrps/divs/yalsa/booklistsawards/alexawards/2008alex/the-spellman-files.jpg

It had been recommended by a friend, but got pushed to the end of the waiting-to-be-read pile, where it languished behind a new Reginald Hill and got pushed aside by an unread Peter Lovesey.

Then I saw its red cover poking out and grabbed it a few days ago. What a treat!

Author Lisa Lutz has a wild and dark sense of humor. She’s been compared to Janet Evanovich and Carl Hiassen, but her humor lies somewhere between the two.

The Spellman’s are a family of private investigators, down to little sister Rae. Narrator Isabel, trying to live down her wilder youthful days, has reached her late 20’s and become a maven of invading other people’s privacy, even as her own is invaded and she reacts with, well, how she reacts is actually the plot of this book, so I’d better let you find out for yourself.

Izzy is a great protagonist, but part of the delight in reading this is the layout, the way Izzy characterizes events in her life. Her entire dysfunctional family has a very different way of looking at life.

https://i1.wp.com/lisalutz.com/images/lisa-lutz-nov09.jpg

Yes, Lutz has already followed up with Curse of the Spellmans, Revenge of the Spellmans, and The Spellmans Strike Again (mea culpa, I told you it sat on my shelf for a while). Read them in order, as I plan to, to get the full flavor of the growth of Izzy and her clan.

The Life of Guppy

the care and feeding of our little fish

dru's book musings

Reading is a wonderful adventure!

JoHanna Massey

“Somewhere, something incredible is waiting to be known.” ― Carl Sagan

MiddleSisterReviews.com

(mid'-l sis'-tǝr) n. the reader's favorite sister

My train of thoughts on...

Smile! Don't look back in anger.

Make

make Your House a home

K.R. Morrison, Author

My author site--news and other stuff about books and things

Wicked Cozy Authors

Mysteries with a New England Accent

Some Days You Do ...

Writers & Writing, my own & other people's; movies, art, music & the search for a perfect flat white - the bits & pieces of a writing life.

Gaslight Crime

Author and reviewer of period crime fiction

Crimezine

#1 for Crime

Mellotone70Up

John Harvey on Books & Writing - his own & other people 's - Art, Music, Movies, & the elusive search for the perfect Flat White.

A thrilling Murder-Mystery...

...now being made into a radio drama

BOOK SHELF

"Tell me and I forget-Show me and I remember-Involve me and I learn"

Past Offences: Classic crime, thrillers and mystery book reviews

The best mystery and crime fiction (up to 1987): Book and movie reviews

forensics4fiction

Forensics demystified for the fiction writer

milliewonka

Just another WordPress.com site

Eco Women: Protectors of the Planet!

Saving the planet one day at a time.

The Life of Guppy

the care and feeding of our little fish

dru's book musings

Reading is a wonderful adventure!

JoHanna Massey

“Somewhere, something incredible is waiting to be known.” ― Carl Sagan

MiddleSisterReviews.com

(mid'-l sis'-tǝr) n. the reader's favorite sister

My train of thoughts on...

Smile! Don't look back in anger.

Make

make Your House a home

K.R. Morrison, Author

My author site--news and other stuff about books and things

Wicked Cozy Authors

Mysteries with a New England Accent

Some Days You Do ...

Writers & Writing, my own & other people's; movies, art, music & the search for a perfect flat white - the bits & pieces of a writing life.

Gaslight Crime

Author and reviewer of period crime fiction

Crimezine

#1 for Crime

Mellotone70Up

John Harvey on Books & Writing - his own & other people 's - Art, Music, Movies, & the elusive search for the perfect Flat White.

A thrilling Murder-Mystery...

...now being made into a radio drama

BOOK SHELF

"Tell me and I forget-Show me and I remember-Involve me and I learn"

Past Offences: Classic crime, thrillers and mystery book reviews

The best mystery and crime fiction (up to 1987): Book and movie reviews

forensics4fiction

Forensics demystified for the fiction writer

milliewonka

Just another WordPress.com site

Eco Women: Protectors of the Planet!

Saving the planet one day at a time.