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Review: William Boyd’s Solo in the Washington Post

October 13, 2013

Since my teenage years, I’ve been an avid James Bond fan—following both the novels and the films—and while the big-screen Bond may have gotten most of the attention in recent years, I’ve been equally intrigued with the last three books officially sanctioned by the Fleming estate, each featuring a different author: Devil May Care by Sebastian Faulks, Carte Blanche by Jeffery Deaver, and now Solo by William Boyd. That last one strikes me as the boldest of the three in a number of ways, and I was pleased to review it for the Washington Post. Here’s a quick excerpt:

To some degree, a Bond book is a Bond book. M, Q Branch, Miss Moneypenny, some fast cars, some fast women, a little globe-trotting, a little fate of the world in the balance — then shake, don’t stir. But as with the various shifts in the Bond franchise, small changes can make big differences. Boyd’s Bond reveals himself to be reflective, at times even rueful, moved to fresh depths of moral awareness by thoughts of his past and observations about conflict and cruelty as his mission unfolds.

The full review can be found here. Art Taylor

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Event: Waterbear Reading Series, Saturday, October 26 at One More Page Books

October 10, 2013

One More Page BooksI’m thrilled to be taking part in the October edition of the Waterbear Reading Series at One More Page Books in Arlington, Virginia. The series, which began earlier this year, has already featured some terrific writers—including both friends (Jen Michalski, Laura Ellen Scott, Amber Sparks) and family (Tara Laskowski!)—and the October event will be the last reading of 2013, given the holidays ahead, so fingers crossed for a big audience to help round out the year with a bang!

I’ll be reading on Saturday, October 26, at 6 p.m., along with three other very distinguished writers:

John Copenhaver placed as a quarterfinalist in the 2010 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award for Dodging and Burning.  The last two summers he attended the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference as a general contributor in fiction.  In 2011 he was invited to be a fellow in genre fiction at the Lambda Writers Retreat for Emerging LGBT Voices. He graduated with his BA from Davidson College, MA in literature from Bread Loaf, and MFA in fiction from George Mason, where he served as executive editor of the literary magazine Phoebe.  He also spent a summer interning in the literature department of the National Endowment for the Arts.  He has published in several regional journals, including Timber Creek Review and The Roanoke Review, and was the first runner-up in the F. Scott Fitzgerald Short Story Contest.

Mark Cugini’s work has appeared or is forthcoming in Melville House, Hobart, Sink Review, Barrelhouse, NOÖ, Everday Genius, and other publications. He’s a founding editor of Big Lucks, a contributor to HTMLGiant, and the curator of the Three Tents Reading Series in Washington, DC. His chapbook I’M JUST HAPPY TO BE HERE will be released in March 2013.

Jonathan Harper received his MFA from American University in 2010 and was a staff member of the Lambda Literary Foundation from 2002-2005. His writing is scattered about in places like The Nervous Breakdown, Chelsea Station, Icarus Magazine as well as the anthologies: Homewrecker: An Adultery Reader, The Lost Library: Gay Fiction Rediscovered and Best Gay Stories 2013. He really-really loves Period Pieces and Gillian Anderson has yet to answer one of his fan letters.

Hope to see lots of friendly faces there—and pleased that my parents and brother will be making the trip up for the event as well! — Art Taylor

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Essay: An Appreciation of Margaret Maron in Mystery Scene

October 3, 2013

131cover250I’ve been following Margaret Maron’s career for more than twenty years now, helping to document many of the highpoints for magazines including The Armchair Detective, Mystery Scene, and North Carolina Literary Review—and I couldn’t have been more thrilled about her being named Grand Master of Mystery Writers of America earlier this year. It’s a special honor then to have been invited by Mystery Scene to pen a short appreciation of Margaret and her career. Check out “Tales from the Tar Heel State: The North Carolina Mysteries of Margaret Maron” in the magazine’s Fall 2013 issue, out on newsstands this month. — Art Taylor

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Review: Lillian & Dash by Sam Toperoff

August 26, 2013

Dashiell Hammett has figured frequently as a character in other writers’ fictions, often with a swift plot and a sharp dose of mystery and intrigue. But Sam Toperoff’s new novel Lillian & Dash takes a different approach to the iconic author and his long-time lover, playwright Lillian Hellman. Check out my review here. — Art Taylor

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Upcoming Event: Northern Virginia Writers Club Workshop

July 22, 2013

This coming Saturday—July 27—from 11 a.m.-4 p.m.—I’ll be leading the workshop “Bring Life to Your Characters and Shape to Your Plot” for the Northern Virginia Writers Club. The workshop distills a number of lessons that I’ve used at times for my semester-long fiction and creative nonfiction workshops at George Mason University: the benefits and drawbacks of character inventories; direct and indirection presentation of character; the direct relationships between character and plot; stories as conflict versus stories as connection/disconnection; linear versus modular storytelling…. While it’s likely going to be a lot to cover perhaps, my plan is to introduce concepts and idea for folks to both work on during the sessions themselves and then to develop later on their own. We’ll see how it goes!

Please note that the workshop is free for members of the Northern Virginia Writers Club, the regional chapter of the Virginia Writers Club, but registration has already closed. — Art Taylor

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Catching Up On My Reading….

July 21, 2013

Over the last week or so, I’ve been catching up on recent issues of Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, taking some time to check out short stories by several friends—each of them a writer I admire tremendously. Just wanted to give a quick shout-out to those stories and to what stood out to me about each:

Harley Mazuk‘s “The Road Les Traveled” (EQMM‘s August 2013 issue) is another of the author’s Frank Swiver stories, about a PI in 1940s San Francisco. This one centers around a burlesque theater, a blacklisted screenwriter, and his wife—trouble with a capital T. While the plot is great fun, what I enjoyed most was Mazuk’s playfulness with details and language. When that troubled wife puts one some records and does a little shake and shimmy to lure Swiver into bed, he resists at first—and then comes a nice touch: “When Bessie Smith sang ‘Do Your Duty,’ I took Mrs. St. George to bed.” Later, during a fight scene, comes another like bit of language play: “He swung the other arm at me like a leg of mutton, and he caught me on the chops.” And cleverness too in the quantity and variety of alcohol that permeates the story as well—definitely put to good use!

In the latest EQMM, the September/October issue (on newsstands now), a trio of friends and fine writers have really delivered the goods:

  • In Dana Cameron‘s taut, tense “Dialing In,” a government-mandated assassination attempt goes badly wrong, leaving the shooter with lots of questions and some new missions of her own to carry through.
  • In David Dean‘s “In a Dark Manner,” a confession of teenage misdeeds takes some surprising turns—with just a hint of light peeking through the darkness.
  • And Brendan DuBois‘ “Breaking the Box” follows the ups and downs of a high-stakes police interrogation—and then, in a bit of brilliant sleight-of-hand, takes a very unexpected turn.

These tales reveal once more why these writers have long since been considered among the genre’s finest practitioners of the short story. Plenty more I’m still looking forward to reading in that issue as well, with stories by Doug Allyn, Jon L. Breen, and Ed Gorman and Ricky Sprague, among others—and so proud to be a part of it myself.

Beyond EQMM, I’ve also been sampling a few more of Cornell Woolrich‘s tales from the new Centipede Press collection Speak to Me of Death, but I have to admit that I think I’m going to give up on pushing through the rest of the book. While stories like “From Dusk to Dawn” and “Marihuana” (the last couple I read) offer those surprise endings that seem to be the hallmark of so much of Woolrich’s work—satisfying endings, I should stress, often with a cruel twist—the prose itself strikes me as so overwritten, both stylistically and in terms of sheer quantity, that it’s often tough going. And too often the characters act less like real people than like symbols for an idea or theme or like cogs in a plot, slowly turning and turning relentlessly in the same direction because that’s what the machinery needs. Historical interest there, of course, but there are simply other, better things for me to be reading right now…. — Art Taylor

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New Fiction: “Ithaca 37″ in Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine

July 9, 2013

img004I’m thrilled to have had two stories appearing in Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine this year—the second of which has just been published in the September/October 2013 double issue. “Ithaca 37″ takes its title from one of the guns that Michael Caine’s character used in the film Get Carter—a gun that this story’s narrator and film aficionado tries to put to good use as well and for some of the same reasons (or at least that’s what he thinks). This story is the first time I’ve tried to work pretty comprehensively with a less than reliable narrator, and I hope that the whole thing holds together straight through to the end.

I’m also pleased to be sharing space in this issue with some extraordinarily talented short story writers, including Doug Allyn, Dana Cameron, David Dean, and Brendan DuBois. Just got the chance last night to read David Dean’s contribution, “In a Dark Manner,” and it’s another terrific tale of his—marked both by keen suspense and sharp surprises and by the sense of moral weight that’s such a hallmark of his work. Looking forward to reading the rest of the issue soon too. — Art Taylor

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