Archive for May, 2012

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Short Fiction Recommendations

May 25, 2012

A couple of short stories online caught my attention recently, and then a full anthology crossed my desk — each worth recommending (though admittedly with a little bias on the anthology, as you’ll find out).

First up is Scott Garson’s “About Me and My Cousin” in Matchbook — not a new story, since it was published in 2009, but new to me. Not only do I admire the movement of the story — literally a movement, since it progresses episode by episode via a series of links — but Garson’s comments on the story are mighty persuasive argument about the possibilities the Internet offers to short stories beyond just “a cheaper alternative to print.”

Next on my list is another story from SmokeLong Quarterly: “The New Doctor” by Abe Gaustad (and featuring some mighty fine artwork by the five-year-old son of a friend of mine).

Finally, the anthology: Uncle John’s Bathroom Reader Presents Flush Fiction: 88 Stories You Can Read in a Single Sitting. And the bias? “The Hamster,” a story by wife, Tara Laskowski, is featured in the collection. While it’s a great story (see for yourself in its original publication here), the others I’ve sampled from the anthology are equally interesting. Eric Cline’s “What’s the Difference Between Optometrists and Ophthalmologists?” was the first I read, not just because it’s the first in the book but also because I’d enjoyed his story “Two Dwarves and Eight Chained Ourang-Outangs” from Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine last year. Jason Schossler’s “For Wile E. Coyote, Apetitius giganticus” — about (yes) that Wile E. Coyote — was not just clever but also remarkably touching. And Corey Mesler’s “Aftermath” proved how much story you can fit in a very little space (just nine lines). Still browsing through this one, but already worth recommending. — Art Taylor

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New Books on James Ellroy and Robert B. Parker

May 21, 2012

A couple of books to cross my desk recently will surely be of interest to crime fiction fans.

First up is Conversations with James Ellroy, edited by Steven Powell and just published by the University Press of Mississippi. The collection surveys interviews with the Demon Dog of American Crime Fiction from 1984 through 2010 — and what’s particularly interesting about the first of these, from The Armchair Detective, is that the supposed author of the article denies having written the piece or ever having interviewed Ellroy for the magazine! Other interviews span highlights of Ellroy’s distinguished career and are drawn from Publisher’s WeeklyNew York Magazine, The Paris Review, and The Guardian, as well as from several other book-length collections; I’m pleased to have one of my own interviews with Ellroy included, an interview I conducted with him in 2009, just before the publication of Blood’s a Rover.

In Pursuit of Spencer: Mystery Writers on Robert B. Parker and the Creation of an American Hero, edited by Otto Penzler and recently released by Smart Pop Books, rounds up a variety of distinguished contributors to remember one of the true greats of the genre. Ace Atkins, who was chosen to continue the Spenser series after Parker’s death, kicks off the collection with the essay “Songs Spenser Taught Me,” and other remembrances and reflections — some personal, some more studious — are offered by Lawrence Block, Reed Farrel coleman, Max Allen Collins, Brendan DuBois, Lyndsay Faye, Ed Gorman, Parnell Hall, Jeremiah Healy, Dennis Lehane, Gary Phillips, and S.J. Rozan — covering topics ranging from supporting characters Susan Silverman and Hawk to the TV series Spenser: For Hire to both Spenser’s code of honor and his culinary skills. Parker’s own essay, “Spenser: A Profile,” originally published by The Mysterious Bookshop, closes the collection. — Art Taylor

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Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine Launches New Blog: Something Is Going To Happen

May 16, 2012

Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine launched a new blog last week dedicated to “suspense, short stories, and the mystery-fiction scene.” It’s called Something Is Going to Happen, a title which editor Janet Hutchings explains in her introductory column. I was very flattered — and a little intimidated — to be asked to write the first guest post for the blog, and somewhere in between those responses, I managed to get something written. My contribution, “‘The Moment of Decision’ — Perched on the Edge of What Happens Next,” begins with a discussion of Stanley Ellin’s stories, takes a quick look at a short story criteria sketched out by John Updike, and then considers the idea of the open-ended story (in several of its permutations and levels of open-endedness).

Also this week, First Person Plural, the blog for The Writer’s Center in Bethesda, Maryland, featured a preview that I wrote for an upcoming BookTalk on Double Indemnity, both the original novel by James M. Cain and the upcoming stage adaptation at Bethesda’s Round House Theatre. That event takes place on Sunday, June 10, at 12:30 p.m., and the feature includes some comments from Blake Robison, producing artistic director for Round House, as well as several of the panelists: novelists Megan Abbott and Con Lehane, and National Public Radio and Washington Post critic Maureen Corrigan. Also participating on the panel will be Eleanor Holdridge, director of the new production. I’m serving as the moderator. — Art Taylor

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Essay: On Elizabeth Hand’s Cass Neary Novels

May 9, 2012

After reading my review of Elizabeth Hand’s Available Dark in the Washington Post, my editor at Mystery Scene asked if I’d like to weigh in at a little more length on both of Hand’s novels featuring photographer Cassandra Neary — and needless to say, I was enthusiastic to do so. My essay “Where the Ripped Edges Peel Away” — discussing Generation Loss and Available Dark — appears in the just-released Spring 2012 issue of the magazine, packaged alongside a revealing interview with Hand by novelist Paul Doiron. Here’s the opening paragraphs of my essay:

In Greek mythology, Cassandra was the prophetess unheeded, a woman both gifted and cursed by her foresight of death and destruction (the fall of Troy, the slaying of Agamemnon) and scorned by an audience of mockers who refused to believe her dark visions.

Cassandra Neary, the could’ve-been-somebody photographer in Elizabeth Hand’s Generation Loss and Available Dark, possesses a special sight as well. As a youth, she experienced visions no one else shared: a striated eye looming in the sky, for example, and a man with green-flecked eyes touching her forehead in a dream, leaving a blinding flash on the very morning she received a camera as a birthday present. As a photographer years later, especially during the heyday of New York’s punk scene, she shot “whatever was going on, speed, smack, sex, broken teeth, broken bottles, zip knives” before moving on to even bleaker subjects: “Pigeons flattened upon the curb; a corpse washed up on the shore of the East River, flesh like soft gray flannel folded into the mud; a stripper at a Broadway club sleeping between acts, her exposed breast like a red balloon where the silicone had leaked beneath the skin.” Her own single work of photography was the collection Dead Girls, which included self-portraits recreating macabre tableaux from famous paintings.

In addition to that package of articles on Hand, the issue in general offers a fine mix of features, including a cover story on thriller writer Thomas Perry, remembrances of both playwright Anthony Shaffer and recently deceased novelist Reginald Hill, and an appreciation of Jane Langton, author of the Homer Kelly series about a homicide detective turned Harvard professor. — Art Taylor

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