Fiction Review

Wendall Thomas @ Jungle Red Writers

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The authors at Jungle Red Writers recently invited Poisoned Pen Press author Wendall Thomas to write a guest post. Thomas is the author of Lost Luggage, which is available through the Web Store. http://bit.ly/2NetCXr

Lost Luggage

Here’s the link to the conversation at Jungle Reds, where you can find a hint or two about Thomas’ next book.  http://bit.ly/2NJKZjU

Check out the summary of Lost Luggage.

Cyd Redondo, a young, third-generation Brooklyn travel agent who specializes in senior citizens, has never ventured farther than New Jersey. Yet even Jersey proves risky when her Travel Agents’ Convention fling, Roger Claymore, leaves her weak in the knees-and everywhere else-then sneaks out of her Atlantic City hotel room at three a.m.

Back in Brooklyn, when she reads about smugglers stopped at JFK with skinks in their socks or monkeys down their pants, she never imagines she will join their ranks. But days after the pet store owner next door to Redondo Travel is poisoned, Cyd wins a free safari. Her boss, Uncle Ray, wants to cash it in for computers, but Cyd is determined to go. When Roger turns up at the Redondo clan’s door, Cyd invites him along as her “plus one.” And just like that she is thrown heels-first into the bizarre and sinister world of international animal smuggling.

She and Roger arrive in Africa, luggage lost, to find two of Cyd’s elderly clients in a local jail. She manages to barter them out, only to discover smugglers have hidden five hundred thousand dollars’ worth of endangered parrots, snakes, frogs, and a lone Madagascan chameleon in the clients’ outbound luggage. When Roger steals the bags – is the U.S. Embassy in on the contraband ring? – Cyd and the chameleon helicopter into the jungle to go after Roger on their own.

Wondering if “plus one” Roger is actually a minus, Cyd dodges Interpol, faces off with a cobra, steals a diplomatic bag, hijacks a FedEx truck, crashes an eco-safari, winds up in a leopard trap, and is forced to smuggle snakes in her bra. It’s a scramble to find the smugglers, save her clients, and solve Mrs. Barsky’s murder before finding herself at the top of the endangered species list.

For fans of Elaine Viets, Lisa Lutz, Janet Evanovich, and Blaize Clement.

Hot Book of the Week – City of Devils

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Although Paul French’s book, Midnight in Peking, is in the Web Store, it’s his latest nonfiction title, City of Devils: The Two Men Who Ruled the Underworld of Old Shanghai, that is the Hot Book of the Week at the Poisoned Pen. Signed copies are available through the Web Store. http://bit.ly/2KJKfxn

City of Devils

Here’s the summary of City of Devils.

By the New York Times bestselling author of Midnight in Peking—winner of both the Edgar Award for Best Fact Crime and the CWA Gold Dagger for Non-Fiction—comes rags-to-riches tale of two self-made men set against a backdrop of crime and vice in the sprawling badlands of Shanghai.

Shanghai, 1930s; it was a haven for outlaws from all over the world: a place where pasts could beforgotten, fascism and communism outrun, names invented, and fortunes made—and lost.

“Lucky” Jack Riley was the most notorious of those outlaws. An ex–U.S. Navy boxing champion,he escaped from prison and rose to become the Slots King of Shanghai. “Dapper” Joe Farren—a Jewishboy who ed Vienna’s ghetto—ruled the nightclubs. His chorus lines rivalled Ziegfeld’s.

In 1940, Lucky Jack and Dapper Joe bestrode the Shanghai Badlands like kings, while all aroundthe Solitary Island was poverty, starvation, and war. They thought they ruled Shanghai, but the cityhad other ideas. This is the story of their rise to power, their downfall, and the trail of destruction leftin their wake. Shanghai was their playground for a flickering few years, a city where for a fleeting momenteven the wildest dreams could come true.

Sulari Gentill, An Interview

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Sulari from PPPress

We recently congratulated Sulari Gentill for her award nominations for her book Crossing the Lines. Sulari is also the author of the Rowland Sinclair mysteries, published by Poisoned Pen Press. The fifth in the series, Gentlemen Formerly Dressed, was released in June. Copies are available through the Web Store. http://bit.ly/2N5KsYB

Gentlemen Formerly Dressed

Here’s the summary of Gentlemen Formerly Dressed.

There’s an Evelyn Waugh-meets-Agatha Christie feel about this series.

Handsome, wry, and witty despite his impeccable manners, and the dedicated black sheep of his conservative, wealthy Australian family, Rowland Sinclair prefers to leave managing the immense family fortune and politics to his elder brother, Wil, while pursuing a life as a gentleman artist. A life in company of boho housemates Clyde, a fellow painter; Milton, a plagiarising poet; and Edna, the beautiful, emancipated sculptress who is both his muse and the (unacknowledged) love of his life.

Having barely escaped 1933 Germany while reluctantly pursuing an off-the-books mission in Munich, the usually stoic Rowly remains horrified and deeply troubled by the changes that have come about under the Nazi government. The country which he knew in his early twenties as the centre of modern art and culture, is now, under Hitler, oppressed and sanitised. Tortured by the SA for the degeneracy of his own paintings, he bears both physical and emotional scars. For the first time he is moved to take a stance politically, to try and sway the political thought of the time. A friend of the Left and son of the Right, Rowland doesn’t really know what he is doing, or what should be done, but he is consumed with a notion that something should be done. Plus he needs to recuperate.

And so Rowly and his friends make for England rather than returning to Sydney. In London, in the superlative luxury of Claridge’s, they feel safe. Then Viscount Pierrepont is discovered in his club, impaled by a sword. Pierrepont is sporting a frilly negligée and makeup – so, a sex crime? Too embarrassing. And too bizarre a death for this aging gentleman, and him newly wed. His murder, and the suspicion falling on his young niece, quickly plunge the Australians into a queer world of British aristocracy, Fascist Blackshirts, illicit love, scandal, and spies ranging from London and its suburbs to Bletchley Park and Oxford, and inevitably drawing in Wil Sinclair as well as players like H.G. Wells and Winston Churchill. It’s a world where gentlemen are not always what they are dressed up to be.

*****

Michael Barson recently interviewed Sulari Gentill for Bookreporter.com. We’d like to share the link to the article. http://bit.ly/2L2Nfkp

Mark de Castrique, Award Nominee

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Poisoned Pen Press authors are on a roll lately. Mark de Castrique is a nominee for the Thomas Wolfe Memorial Literary Award for his novel, Hidden Scars. The award is presented annually for printed works that focus special attention on Western North Carolina. Signed copies of Hidden Scars are available through the Web Store.  http://bit.ly/2L2fHmE

Hidden Scars

Here’s the summary of Hidden Scars.

When Asheville, NC, private eyes Sam Blackman and Nakayla Robertson are asked by an eighty-year-old client to investigate the suspicious death of her brother, they warn her there is little chance of success. Paul Weaver died nearly seventy years earlier. The only documentation she has is the sole surviving copy of a coroner’s report stating his death was caused by an accidental fall while hiking.

There’s a red flag: local son Weaver knew every inch of the mountain trails. The returning World War II veteran had enrolled at Black Mountain College, a liberal local school with an international reputation for innovation, thanks to its stellar faculty and advisers like Buckminster Fuller and Albert Einstein. The college of the 1940s is currently being portrayed in a film being shot on the site of its former location. The plot is based on a book by a local author. The research behind both may provide a lead in the Weaver case.

One is drawn from movie crew member Harlan Beale, an octogenarian mountaineer who knew Weaver. In a late-night voice message, Beale tells Sam he’s found something to show him. Then Beale is discovered dead in the Black Mountain College Museum. His murder turns the cold case white hot. When a second killing follows, the question becomes how to separate dark doings in the present from dark days and hidden scars of the post-war past. In typical de Castrique fashion, the answers aren’t what you expect.

No-nonsense Nakayla and veteran Sam with his prosthetic leg love their investigations which always carry a thread from the past, and love each other. An interracial couple in the South, even the new South around Asheville, they’ve surrounded themselves with a terrific support team including an unorthodox lawyer and a veteran cop, and use humor both to bind them all together and to deflect insults. Plus, it helps deal with the tragedies their work uncovers.

Sulari Gentill, Award Nominee

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sulari

If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you know of Poisoned Pen author Sulari Gentill. She’s answered questions “In the Hot Seat”. http://bit.ly/1Vw5ZL2. She’s written about her beloved Australia. http://bit.ly/2onytv

Now, she’s nominated for two Australian awards for her book, Crossing the Lines. You can order it through the Web Store. http://bit.ly/2DdMLE1

Crossing the Lines

Here’s what Poisoned Pen Bookstore owner Barbara Peters said in her latest newsletter.

The 2018 NED KELLY AWARDS SHORT LIST
The Ned Kelly Awards are Australia’s oldest and most prestigious prizes honouring published crime fiction and true crime writing.
Sulari Gentill, Crossing the Lines 
Other nominees:
Marlborough Man by Alan Carter
Under the Cold Bright Lights by Garry Disher
Redemption Point by Candice Fox
The Lone Child by Anna George
Class Act by Ged Gillmore
Pachyderm by Hugh McGinlay
Big Red Rock by David Owen
The Secrets She Keeps by Michael Robotham
The Student by Iain Ryan
Clear to the Horizon by Dave Warner
The 2018 DAVIT AWARD SHORT LIST (Sisters in Crime Australia)
“At the risk of sounding like a cracked record, Australian women’s crime writing just gets better and better every year – and Davitt judges aren’t the only ones who think so”
Sarah Bailey, The Dark Lake  (2017 First Mystery Club Pick)
Sara Foster, The Hidden Hours
Candice Fox, Crimson Lake 
Sulari Gentill, Crossing the Lines 
Jane Harper, Force of Nature 
Emma Viskic, And Fire Came Down
Crossing the Lines:
When Madeleine d’Leon conjures Ned McGinnity as the hero in
 her latest crime novel, she makes him a serious writer simply because the irony of a protagonist who’d never lower himself to read the story in which he stars, amuses her. When Ned McGinnity creates Madeleine d’Leon, she is his literary device, a writer of detective fiction who is herself a mystery to be unravelled. As Ned and Madeleine play out their own lives while writing the other’s story, they find themselves crossing the lines that divide the real and the imagined.

Diana Gabaldon & A California Bandit

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Caught your attention with that headline, didn’t I? Diana Gabaldon wrote the introduction for John Rollin Ridge’s The Life and Adventures of Joaquin Murieta: The Celebrated California BanditOnce you know the story of Murieta, the background of the book, and learn about Gabaldon’s interest in it, you might want to order a copy through the Web Store. http://bit.ly/2J2ybSf

Joaquin

Here’s the book summary from the Web Store.

The first novel to feature a Mexican American hero: an adventure tale about Mexicans rising up against U.S. rule in California, based on the real-life bandit who inspired the creation of Zorro, the Lone Ranger, and Batman

With a new foreword by Diana Gabaldon, the #1 New York Times bestselling author of the Outlander series

An action-packed blend of folk tale, romance, epic, and myth, The Life and Adventures of Joaquín Murieta tells the story of the Gold Rush-era Mexican immigrant Joaquín Murieta, whose efforts to find fortune and happiness are thwarted by white settlers who murder his family and drive him off his land. In retaliation, Murieta organizes a band of more than 2,000 outlaws–including the sadistic “Three-Fingered Jack”–who take revenge by murdering, stealing horses, and robbing miners, all with the ultimate goal of reconquering California.

The first novel written by a Native American and the first novel published in California, The Life and Adventures of Joaquín Murieta speaks to the ways in which ethical questions of national security and racialized police violence have long been a part of U.S. history. This edition features excerpts from popular rewritings of the novel, including Johnston McCulley’s first novel about Zorro, The Curse of Capistrano (also known as The Mark of Zorro).

*****

Barbara Peters, owner of the Poisoned Pen, had this to say.

Ridge, John Rollin. The Life and Adventures of Joaquín Murieta (Penguin Classic $17). Signed not by Ridge who died in 1867 and wrote this, his only novel, in 1854, but by Diana Gabaldon who has written a compelling Foreword I recommend to all—her discussion of what being called “Mexican” as well as considerations about the outlaw hero are two components.

You T. Jefferson Parker fans will be familiar with Joaquín Murieta and his famous head in a bottle. You may even be familiar with the thought that this novel based on a real life bandit-hero “inspired the creation of Zorro, the Lone Ranger, and Batman” although I’m not sure about Batman. Still… Murieta operated in California during the Gold Rush when incoming white boomers murdered his family and pushed him off his land. Murieta organized a band of more than 2000 outlaws to strike back, robbing, rustling, and murdering with the goal of taking back California…. Ridge’s book is both “the first novel written by a Native American (Cherokee) and the first novel published in California.” And it’s still a rousing adventure read.

Hsuan L. Hsu supplies a detailed Introduction presenting both period and publishing history with footnotes and a useful Suggestions for Further Reading section. This edition features some rewritings including “The Curse of Capistrano,” aka “The Mark of Zorro.” At a time when conversations ring about identity, Ridge and Gabaldon speak powerfully to us.

*****

If you read Gabaldon’s books, you might want to read the story she wrote about her parents. You’ll understand why she’s interested. You can find “Myth and Mountain Birthdays” on her website at http://bit.ly/2u2qRBz

Paul French & City of Devils

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Mark this on your calendars. Historian Paul French will be at the Poisoned Pen on Thursday, July 12 at 7 PM to discuss and sign his new nonfiction book, City of Devils: The Two Men Who Ruled the Underworld of Old Shanghai. Signed copies are available through the Web Store. http://bit.ly/2KPt2BX

City of Devils

Here’s the summary of City of Devils.

By the New York Times bestselling author of Midnight in Peking—winner of both the Edgar Award for Best Fact Crime and the CWA Gold Dagger for Non-Fiction—comes rags-to-riches tale of two self-made men set against a backdrop of crime and vice in the sprawling badlands of Shanghai.

Shanghai, 1930s; it was a haven for outlaws from all over the world: a place where pasts could beforgotten, fascism and communism outrun, names invented, and fortunes made—and lost.

“Lucky” Jack Riley was the most notorious of those outlaws. An ex–U.S. Navy boxing champion,he escaped from prison and rose to become the Slots King of Shanghai. “Dapper” Joe Farren—a Jewish boy who fled Vienna’s ghetto—ruled the nightclubs. His chorus lines rivalled Ziegfeld’s.

In 1940, Lucky Jack and Dapper Joe bestrode the Shanghai Badlands like kings, while all around the Solitary Island was poverty, starvation, and war. They thought they ruled Shanghai, but the city had other ideas. This is the story of their rise to power, their downfall, and the trail of destruction left in their wake. Shanghai was their playground for a flickering few years, a city where for a fleeting moment even the wildest dreams could come true.