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 Blue Virgin: shameful self-promotion Friday, Mar 12 2010 

Auntie M is as excited as if she were having a new baby.  Her novel is being printed over the next few days. It feels quite good~Actually, it feels amazing!!!!

Well, it IS a baby of sorts, this process writers go through birthing a novel.  From its inception to the printer, there have been numerous rewrites, workshopping and critquing galore. Since the first draft, there’s even been a change in who done it! Then there’s the business side of a book that most authors fail to consider: working with a copyeditor and book designer on the layout, text issues, and choosing a cover; applying for an ISBN and Library of Congress number; researching (and researching and researching) copyright issues.  It goes on and on to bring a book into production.

The drive to get this in print was the support I’ve received from the members of my writing group, The Screw Iowa gals (www.screwiowa.com). You can check out our website and see how we met, how we got our name, and how the group functions.  You can try our Hooks section, where writers post excerpts of their works and get feedback. You can check out the News section, and blog about books and writing to your hearts content.

At Screw Iowa we like to say we have “the Power of Five” behind us, from editing to encouraging.  We keep each other writing, provides venues and resources for one another, are each others best and worst critics, and try to keep it all honest.

After April 1st, visit member Lauren Small’s press to order The Blue Virgin: http://www.bridlepathpress.com.  And today you can order Lauren’s book, Choke Creek. And you can go to http://www.kitsunepress.com and order another member’s book of poems, Nina Romano’s Coffeehouse Meditations.

Good reads all!

Fruitful Bodies Thursday, Jul 9 2009 

Having a world-famous cellist as a protagonist, in this case Sara Selkirk of Bath, would seem an unlikely attraction as a heroine, and yet we are drawn to her and her world and follow the action of this unusual series.

http://tbn0.google.com/images?q=tbn:nKg08PN46KmyiM:http://www.fantasticfiction.co.uk/images/n13/n67372.jpg

Fearful Symmetry and Funeral Music were the first two in the series, and amidst the resolution of murder follow the growing relationship of Sara with DCI Andrew Poole, father of two young children who are struggling to understand their parents earlier divorce.http://tbn0.google.com/images?q=tbn:xyAg4RCwktNkoM:http://www.fantasticfiction.co.uk/images/n13/n67371.jpg

This newest outing, Fruitful Bodies, revolves around Sara reuniting with her old cello teacher, Prof. Joyce Cruikshank.  Joyce has come to watch Sara play a special concert at the Royal Albert Hall, and Sara watches in horror as her former teacher keels over, drunk as a skunk.

http://tbn3.google.com/images?q=tbn:5pDDvGKQbx0poM:http://ebooks-imgs.connect.com/ebooks/product/400/000/000/000/000/035/065/400000000000000035065_s4.jpg

A murder in a local pub involves Joyce, and indirectly the Sulis Clinic, a font of organic wellness for the rich.  When one of Sara’ best friends is admitted to the Sulis, the stakes are raised and it becomes obvious there is a killer on the loose.

Joss won the Crime Writers’ Association “Silver Dagger” Award for her stand alone novel Half Broken Things, a gripping psychological novel. The inside glimpses we are given of Sara’s music world add to the intrigue.

What Joss continues to do in the Selkirk series is to create believeable characters against a realistic background of floundering new relationships, with all of the sad and funny things that happen along the way.  That the two major characters get involved in solving murder cases is purely a mystery readers bonus, and a delight.

The Birthday Present Tuesday, Apr 21 2009 

Barbara Vine is England’s treasured author, Ruth Rendell, one of the Golden Three of English Women novelists who also happen to be friends: Rendell, PD James and Frances Fyfield.  Now Baroness Rendell of Babergh (hey, I don’t know how the Queen comes up with these titles!), you may know her from her string of psychological crime thrillers or her best-selling series featuring Chief Insp. Reg Wexford and his family, which has also been serialized by the BBC and seen  in the US on Mystery!

Winner of three Edgar’s and four Gold Dagger Awards for her novels, Rendell is an accomplished author no matter which of her names she writes under.

The Birthday Gift is a crime novel with the unusual twist of not being about a murder at all.  Rather, it centers on the unraveling of a British MP, Ivor Tesham, whose idea of a birthday present for his mistress–to have her ‘kidnapped’ on the street, trussed up and brought to him for a night of sexual fantasy–goes horribly wrong.

It’s told in the beginning from the viewpoint of Ivor’s brother-in-law, a family man who is often repulsed by his in-law’s actions and sometimes cavalier attitude, while still trying to be supportive to his wife, the cad’s sister.  Halfway through, Vine adds the point of view of a spinster who has fallen is love with the dead woman’s cuckolded husband.

There is no great mystery here, other than watching how the big man will fall as the years pass and he thinks he is safe, and yet Vine is such a capable author, she reels the reader in and you feel compelled to see the story unfold.  Twice I thought I would put it aside as I knew there was no surprise ending; twice I picked it up until I’d finished it.

This is not a page turner, but rather a study in characters, done in a mild, mannerly way which disguises the awful hubris man can possess.  It also provides an interesting view into Parliament and the daily life of an rising MP.

Patience and Fortitude Sunday, Apr 5 2009 

Green Girl remarked recently that she was reading about the NY Navy Pier and wished she’d been able to tour there when she was in NYC last year.  She minded me how fortunate Auntie M is to have once lived there and seen the glories that international city has to offer.

https://i0.wp.com/pro.corbis.com/images/YM013301.jpg

Auntie M loves the New York Public Library and its Lions guarding the main entrance.  They were namedPatience and Fortitude by Fiorello LaGuardia  as the two qualities New Yorkers exhibited that would help them out of the Depression.  At Christmas they are usually garlanded with enormous wreaths around their necks.

https://i2.wp.com/www.loc.gov/blog/wp-content/uploads/2007/06/great-hall.jpg

The glorious architecture of the Great Hall alone is worth a pop inside to check it out.  On its right hand side is also a compact but interesting gift shop you can visit without entering the library proper.

Auntie M favorite bit is the magnificent reading room with its unparelled ceiling, the rows upon rows of work tables, now renovated to include plug-ins for laptops–these all make me feel even with the Internet and E-publishing there will always be books in this world.

https://i1.wp.com/www.visitingdc.com/images/new-york-public-library-reading-room.jpg

So I picked up Linda Fairstein’s newest Alexandra Cooper novel this week with great expectation, as the murder that savvy DA is helping to solve has taken place within the hallowed halls of this great library.  And I haven’t been disappointed.

https://i1.wp.com/pfaeffle.com/wp-content/uploads/2008/11/lethal-legacy.jpg

A novelist of lesser sway would never get away with throwing this much extraneous history into a book, but Lethal Legacy is Fairstein’s eleventh Cooper novel, so she gets carte blanche on this.

The mystery in this case revolves around the death of a talented young conservator, but in all honesty, the story is not the main character.   The pace is slow but the novel is rich with detailed descriptions of the interior of this lovely building and even more interestingly, of the history behind it.  The infighting between collectors, library trustees and wealthy donors is probably very close to the reality of the situation.  Fairstein must have the ear of quite a few insiders.

Fairstein recounts the layout of the huge building so well you can almost feel yourself traveling down to the lower stacks, where the books are sent up on pneumatic tubes to a central call desk.  This is not a lending library, but a great research center, known throughout the world, and how it came to be that way is largely due to its wealthy endowers at the beginning of the 20th century trying to compete with ancient European libraries.

https://i1.wp.com/farm1.static.flickr.com/56/152451098_8d1dc5349e.jpg

Few New Yorkers realize the stacks continue along under Bryant Park, which borders the library grounds.  As they gather there for relaxation by the fountain, concerts on the lawn, or ice skating in winter, they are treading above the millions of books stored beneath their feet.

Fairstein ran the Sex Crimes Unit of the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office for over twenty years, so the workings inside the case are also spot on.  If you enjoy learning about historical places in the midst of a modern mystery, give this one a read.

Sheesh! Friday, Mar 6 2009 

I can hear you saying.  She says she’s back and then whoosh, she’s gone again!

Just when I thought things were leveling out at home, Doc lost his balance and fell, fracturing his spine, or so we thought.  So we’re in the second of two hospitals this week, and I’m writing this after he had a bone scan prior to an operation to follow either tomorrow or Monday.  Good thing they did this scan, too, as the spine ultimately wasn’t fractured…his pelvis is, which doesn’t require surgery.   So I must give up my nice bed and two- TV room(Yes, TWO TV’s in the room) and head back in a day or so to the land of rural hospitals and pretzel-inducing chairs for a week before heading home.

To say Doc is  pissed frustrated would be such a gross understatement  I shouldn’t even go there.  The surgery would have relieved this new lower back pain, which now will take its own six weeks to heal.  The med center we are at, however, has the neurosurgery and orthopedics floor in the newest wing, so instead of sleeping in a lounger curled up like a pretzel, I’ve been stretching out in this chair thing that opens each night almost to the size of a twin bed.  And since he’s getting IV meds with the two points of pain now, he’s out for the count and we’re both getting the best rest we’ve had in 12 weeks.  Plus they have wireless here. . .

So when he’s gorked out resting, I’ve managed to read a Reginald Hill I’d missed.

https://i1.wp.com/static.guim.co.uk/sys-images/Books/Pix/covers/2008/12/11/roarof140.jpg

The Roar of the Butterflies is one of Hill’s Joe Sixsmith series, the black, balding and middle-aged guileless PI who solves crime with his common sense and more than a stroke of luck.  He is the Everyman of crime, hopelessly in sex with a hot nurse who lives near him, and somehow managing to eke out a living solving crime.

This one centers around a poncey golf club, and is worth reading just to hear a main character try to describe the game to non-player Joe.  Different from Hill’s Dalziel and Pascoe series,  the sly wit and crafty plotting remain.  A delicious treat all around.

Pamela J Castrucci

Navigating self-publishing without a net.

Lee Lofland

The Graveyard Shift

Being Author

Book promotion & authors BLOG

S L Hollister, author

Welcome to Leeward

Liz Loves Books

The Wonderful World of Reading

The Life of Guppy

the care and feeding of our little fish

dru's book musings

Reading is a wonderful adventure!

JoHanna Massey

"I tramp the perpetual journey." Walt Whitman

MiddleSisterReviews.com

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

My train of thoughts on...

Smile! Don't look back in anger.

Emma kayne

interior design student - maker

K.R. Morrison, Author

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

The Wickeds

Wicked Good Mysteries

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

Authors and reviewers of historical 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

Past Offences: Classic crime, thrillers and mystery book reviews

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

Pamela J Castrucci

Navigating self-publishing without a net.

Lee Lofland

The Graveyard Shift

Being Author

Book promotion & authors BLOG

S L Hollister, author

Welcome to Leeward

Liz Loves Books

The Wonderful World of Reading

The Life of Guppy

the care and feeding of our little fish

dru's book musings

Reading is a wonderful adventure!

JoHanna Massey

"I tramp the perpetual journey." Walt Whitman

MiddleSisterReviews.com

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

My train of thoughts on...

Smile! Don't look back in anger.

Emma kayne

interior design student - maker

K.R. Morrison, Author

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

The Wickeds

Wicked Good Mysteries

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

Authors and reviewers of historical 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