Wednesday, 27 July 2016 06:07


lockeattica pleasantville
Like many people, I count Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird among my favorite novels.

Let’s not even mention Go Set a Watchman.

So it was with great pleasure to learn that Attica Locke, author of Pleasantville, will receive the 2016 Harper Lee Prize for Legal Fiction.

The announcement was made by the University of Alabama School of Law and the ABA Journal.

Locke is the sixth winner of the prize.

The prize, authorized by Lee, is given annually to a book-length work of fiction that best illuminates the role of lawyers in society and their power to effect change, according to its description.

In the announcement, the selection committee for the prize stated “Pleasantville has beautiful prose and strong characters, much like “To Kill a Mockingbird.”

Added Helen Ellis, a member of the committee and the author of American Housewife, “In Pleasantville, Attica Locke takes us out of a courtroom and into a lawyer’s home and heart.”

I couldn’t agree more.

Pleasantville was one of my favorite books of 2015 and I put it on my best of the year list.

In my best of 2015 list, I said: “Attica Locke’s insightful look at African American life in Houston shows how politics, race and classism converge. Pleasantville, a Houston neighborhood built after WWII specifically for black families “of means and class,” also has become a bargaining chip among politicians and a haven for family secrets.”

Locke will receive a signed special edition of To Kill a Mockingbird, a $3,000 cash award and a feature article in the ABA Journal.

Locke’s novel will be honored during a ceremony at 5:30 p.m. Sept. 22 at the Library of Congress’s Thomas Jefferson Building in Washington, D.C., in conjunction with the National Book Festival. Following the award presentation, the Selection Committee will convene a panel discussion of Pleasantville in relationship to Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird.

Locke’s first novel, Black Water Rising, was nominated for a 2010 Edgar Award, an NAACP Image Award and a Los Angeles Times Book Prize. It was short-listed for the Orange Prize in the United Kingdom (now the Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction). Her second book, The Cutting Season, published by Dennis Lehane Books, is a national bestseller and is a winner of the Ernest Gaines Award for Literary Excellence. Locke has written scripts for Paramount, Warner Bros, Disney, Twentieth Century Fox, Jerry Bruckheimer Films and HBO and is a writer and producer of the Fox drama Empire.

Saturday, 23 July 2016 06:07

pattersondubois bookshots

The TV commercials are almost impossible to miss.

 A man, running through the streets, pursued by what looks like bad guys. But never once does he drop the book he is reading. He reads while jumping, while dodging cars and even when he leaps onto a passing boat on which every other passenger also has a book, reading.

Let’s hope the boat captain can tear his eyes away from his or her book to keep the ship from going aground.

I admit I can relate to the constant reader. I have been known to read while walking, while on an exercise bike. In a car or in a long line—of course I am reading.

The running reader promotes James Patterson’s new line of books called BookShots, billed as under 150 pages long and costing less than $5. They are being called “fast paced and all thriller, no filler,” Patterson said. They're short enough, he stated, to be read in one sitting, and each chapter, usually no more than a few pages long, “has to move plot and characterization forward.”

Run, reader, run!

They're designed for the many people today who don't have enough time to read and are put off by the idea of reading a 450-page book, Patterson added.

OK, I am for anything that gets people reading but I have never been put off by a 450 novel—that allows me to immerse myself in the story and characters.

But I can see the appeal of the BookShots, and hope it leads readers to longer, more substantial books.

The plan is that there will be two to four BookShots published each month. Mystery titles will be joined by romance and nonfiction books, too.

pattersonoborn bookshots
Patterson, of course, isn’t actually writing most of the books but using a co-author who will complete Patterson’s ideas.

And, true to form, Patterson is getting some good authors to write for him.

Some of the authors include Brendan DuBois, who has several terrific novels himself, Max DiLallo, James O. Born, Michael Ledwidge, Jen McLaughlin, among others.

Let us know what you think about this new imprint.

Tuesday, 12 July 2016 07:07

branagh kenneth

I am not sure how I feel about this.

Murder on the Orient Express is one of my favorite movies.

The 1974 film directed by Sidney Lumet and based on Agatha Christie’s novel is one I never tire of.

That film starred Albert Finney as detective Hercule Poirot investigating an American tycoon’s murder aboard the train. The all-star cast of suspects included Lauren Bacall, Ingrid Bergman, Jacqueline Bisset, Colin Blakely, Sean Connery, John Gielgud, Anthony Perkins, Vanessa Redgrave, and Michael York.

It is, in my opinion, pretty darn perfect. And the final champagne scene is the kicker.

According to Variety, Murder on the Orient Express was a commercial success with $35 million in U.S. grosses. It was also nominated for six Academy Awards, with Bergman—portraying a Swedish missionary—winning her third Oscar, her first in the supporting category.

Christie’s 1934 novel also was adapted for a 2001 TV version. It aired on CBS and starred Alfred Molina and Leslie Caron.

So do we really need another version of Murder on the Orient Express?

Even if Kenneth Branagh, pictured above, is involved?

Branagh, one of our best actors, is set to star as Hercule Poirot and also will direct Fox’s reboot of Murder on the Orient Express. Branagh’s directing credits include Henry V, Thor, and Cinderella, not to mention the myriad turns at acting.

But, to repeat myself, do we really need another Murder on the Orient Express?

Surely there are other projects, even other Christie novels that can be filmed as Branagh projects.

I’m not saying the Branagh reboot wouldn’t be good—I just want new ideas not retread ones.

Apparently, the Christie estate is excited with this new version.

In a story that ran in Variety, James Prichard, chairman of Agatha Christie Ltd. and Christie’s great grandson, said, “The extraordinary thing about my great grandmother’s stories is just how timeless they are and how perfectly they lend themselves to the cinematic experience. Eighty years after the publication of the novel, Fox and its creative team will bring Murder on the Orient Express, a classic Christie tale, to new audiences across the world. We are genuinely excited about this partnership and with 33 Poirot stories to be told, we look forward to this being the first of many collaborations.”