Sunday, 06 October 2019 02:55

Raymond Chandler’s work remains timeless. His solid characters, view of society and iconic look at Los Angeles are always in style.

So I was especially interested to see how Randall Silvis briefly weaves in Chandler in his novel A Long Way Down.

And I promise no spoilers—just a beautiful homage to Chandler.

In Silvis’ third outing with Ryan DeMarco, the former Pennsylvania state policeman turned private investigator returns to his hometown of Youngstown, Ohio.

Ryan is a reader and his hometown reminds him a couple of times of Raymond Chandler.

Driving from stoplight to stoplight, Ryan is reminded of a phrase Raymond Chandler has used “the big sordid dirty crooked city. Chandler’s Marlowe preferred it over small-town life, but DeMarco was no Philip Marlowe, and he knew it. Any similarities were only skin-deep. He was more like Chandler himself, a man whose spirit and heart were gradually crushed by the city.”

Ryan proves quite the Chandler fan, as he often relies on the author, and Marlowe, to guide him.

Later on, Ryan remembers the quote “I test very high on insubordination,” which Philip Marlowe had said in The Big Sleep.

“The quote had always pleased DeMarco. As did Nabokov’s observations that curiosity is insubordination in its purest form.”

Ryan’s literary tastes also run to mainstream literature.

“. . . the word komorebi came to him then, a word he had read long ago, probably in a novel by Yukio Mishima, that fine Japanese writer. . . . A single word to describe the way sunlight streamed through leaves on a tree.

By Oline H Cogdill
Saturday, 28 September 2019 12:02

Congratulations to Megan Abbott, left, and Sarah St. Vincent, below left, the recipients of the 2019 Pinckley Prizes for Crime Fiction.

The Pinckley Prizes for Crime Fiction for women writers were established in 2012 by the Women’s National Book Association of New Orleans.

The prizes honor the memory of Diana Pinckley (1952-2012), a longtime crime fiction columnist for The New Orleans Times-Picayune, and her passion for mysteries. Pinckley was a founding member of the Women’s National Book Association of New Orleans, as well as a civic activist for local and national causes.

The author of 10 novels, Megan Abbott is the winner of the Pinckley Prize for Distinguished Body of Work.

Her books include Give Me Your Hand depicting the rivalry between two female graduate students in the world of high-stakes science. You Will Know Me about competitive gymnastics and Dare Me, currently being produced as a USA Network series.

Abbott's novels often delve the dark side of female friendship and ambition.

She also is the author of the nonfiction, The Street Was Mine: White Masculinity in Hardboiled Crime Fiction, and the editor of the anthology, A Hell of a Woman. Her novels have either won or have been nominated for the CWA Steel Dagger, the International Thriller Writers Award, the Los Angeles Times Book Prize and five Edgar awards, Abbott also is a writer on HBO's The Deuce.

According to the press release, the judges praised Abbott's fierce feminism, her brilliant prose style, and her laser-sharp insight into female friendships and ambition, particularly in her treatment of striving and gifted adolescent girls.

I would agree. Abbott is one of the top writers and her novels are terrific.

Sarah St. Vincent is the winner of the Pinckley Prize for Debut Novel for her novel Ways to Hide in Winter, published by Melville house.

Ways to Hide in Winter was one of my picks for best debut of 2018.

In my review, I wrote “widow Kathleen McElwain’s hermit-like life is upended by a stranger who appears at the store at which she works ‘tucked away in the forgotten forests of Pennsylvania.’ The man claims to be a student from Uzbekistan and his stories make Kathleen consider finally leaving the area. The tightly plotted tale combines a story of regret with the war on terror.”

St. Vincent is a human rights attorney, working for survivors of domestic violence. She also researches national security and surveillance for Human Rights Watch. Her first novel blends her concerns with domestic violence and human rights in a chilling tale of a fugitive and the woman who gets to know him over a wintry season in a state park.

According to the press release, “St. Vincent's exquisitely written novel is eerily timely, said the judges, as issues of domestic violence and immigration continue to lead the news.”

Both authors are well deserving of this honor.

Previous winners include Ellen Hart, Louise Penny, Laura Lippman, Sara Paretsky, among others.

Oline H Cogdill
Saturday, 21 September 2019 16:19

Stumptown, debuting at 10 p.m. Sept. 25 on ABC, has the kind of crime fiction pedigree that has been missing from TV for several years.

First, the lead character Dex Parios, played by Cobie Smulders (How I Met Your Mother, Avengers), will find her calling as a private detective, a job that will allow her to channel her propensity for action and justice.

Second, and perhaps most important, Stumptown is adapted from Greg Rucka’s graphic novels, Stumptown. Mystery readers also may recognize Rucka’s name from his series of well received mystery novels.

Beginning with Keeper in 1997, Rucka wrote seven novels about professional bodyguard Atticus Kodiak, published by Bantam. I was a big fan of this series, which went on hiatus following Walking Dead (2010) as Rucker began to concentrate on his graphic novels and other works.

In my Sun Sentinel review of Smoker (1999), I wrote “. . . Greg Rucka easily melds the thriller and mystery genres in a cohesive, complex plot that turns on its own unpredictability. Surveillance scenes, usually a plot-stopper, have a real sense of urgency.

Smoker seals Rucka's status as a rising star whose books crackle with energy while examining current issues…

“Rucka's characters have depth. In Atticus Kodiak, Rucka designs a true modern hero whose vulnerability and toughness are interlinked. Self-doubt fuels his personality and makes him more cautious, but does not keep him from taking action when required.”

My reviews also mentioned Rucka’s flair for realistic women characters, which he has also brought to Stumptown and the character of Dex Parios.

Smulders may always be remembered for role in the comedy How I Met Your Mother—after all that sitcom seems to be in reruns as least twice a day, like Law & Order is.

But she shows a different range in Stumptown, which is, oddly, billed as a dramady.

Well, OK, there is humor but the focus in Stumptown seems to be more drama. Those a scene featuring a Neil Diamond song is pretty funny.

Dex is a veteran, adrift after leaving the service about a decade before. A heavy drinker with a heavier gambling debt, Dex can’t keep a job. She also suffers from PSTD, the result of her military tours, and cares for her brother who has Down Syndrome.

A redemption, of sorts, comes with her becoming a private investigator.

She’s not particularly good at it, but she tries.

The setting of Portland, Ore., which is nicknamed Stumptown, should lend itself to good background shots.

Brash and often out of control, Dex is the kind of character more seen on cable shows than a mainstream network.

I am looking forward to that edgy character and, I have high hopes as Rucka’s source material is solid.

Stumptown will air at 10 p.m. Wednesdays on ABC.

Photos of Cobie Smulders/ABC

By Oline H Cogdill