Thursday, March 5, 2015

NOW AVAILABLE IN PAPERBACK!

NOW AVAILABLE IN PAPERBACK!

FIGHT CARD SHERLOCK HOLMES: BLOOD TO THE BONE

AUTHOR: ANDREW SALMON
COVER: MIKE FYLES
BOOK DESIGN: DAVID FOSTER

FIGHT CARD SHERLOCK HOLMES: BLOOD TO THE BONE

Deptford, England, 1888 … Richard Stokes – one half of a tag-team carnival boxing duo – has vanished, leaving his loving wife, pugilist Eby Stokes, homeless and penniless with only questions and no answers. A mutual friend asks Holmes to look into the disappearance.

Watson believes the matter to be a common case of abandonment, and Holmes’ interest merely an excuse to try his hand in the boxing booths of a visiting circus. However, when they are almost killed, Holmes and Watson’s only remaining clue to Stokes disappearance harkens back to a boxing club disbanded in shame more than sixty years earlier. 

Why did Stokes abandon his wife? What possible significance could the long extinct Pugilistic Club have in the matter? Who is behind the fire that almost took the lives of Holmes and Watson?

Joining forces with Eby Stokes, Holmes and Watson are determined to find the answers. The kaleidoscope lights of the carnival hide many secrets, including a threat to the foundation of the British Empire.

The game's afoot and, this time, it's a matter of life and death in and out of the ring…



 

Monday, March 2, 2015

BSB REVIEW FIGHT CARD SHERLOCK HOLMES II

BSB REVIEW FIGHT CARD SHERLOCK HOLMES II

THE REVERED BAKER STREET BABES BLOG HAS ALSO GIVEN FIGHT CARD SHERLOCK HOLMES: BLOOD TO THE BONE A RAVE REVIEW ...


While Work Capitol was full of links to the Canon, Blood to the Bone refers more frequently to historical events of the 1880s, ending with a fictionalized explanation for one of the most famous photographs in history (which I will not name, as it would spoil the effect). I enjoyed the historical links and references very much, and loved the solution of the story, which reads almost like an action film – the images conjured up by Salmon’s words are that vivid.

But what sticks most about this story is the lady fighter who is written as a much more complex character than Doyle usually wrote his female characters. She is strong and vulnerable, loving and vengeful, independent and a team player, and she gets an ending very deserving of her character...

FOR THE FULL REVIEW CLICK HERE



Monday, February 23, 2015

BAKER STREET BABES REVIEW FIGHT CARD

BAKER STREET BABES REVIEW FIGHT CARD

THE REVERED BAKER STREET BABES BLOG HAS GIVEN FIGHT CARD SHERLOCK HOLMES: WORK CAPITOL A RAVE REVIEW ... 

The case itself is a complex and dangerous one, which sees Holmes and Watson having a close brush with death more than once, and every bit as good as Doyle wrote his cases. I had long wanted to read this story, but was kept from it by work, but now that I sat down again to read it I couldn’t stop and finished it in one go. It’s beautiful prose and while not always sounding true to Doyle, the writing style draws you in and involves you almost physically. Salmon makes you feel the incredible heat of the place when Watson steps inside a crowded bar from the bitter cold. There are many passages in the text where I just stopped to enjoy the words, which is a rare thing in Sherlock Holmes pastiches or any kind of novel these days.

FOR THE FULL REVIEW CLICK HERE

BINGE READING

BINGE READING

Binge watching television shows is a relatively new phenomenon compared to binge reading. Like many before, a reader who discovers Sherlock Holmes for the first time is still apt to binge read their way through most of the Sherlockian canon before coming up for air.

My first experience with binge reading came with John D. MacDonald’s Travis McGee novels. Discovering a copy of The Deep Blue Good-By on a used bookstall in London, I didn’t interrupt the flow of the self-proclaimed beach bum and knight errant’s adventures until sixteen books later with The Dreadful Lemon Sky, the latest entry in the series at the time. Travis McGee embodied the best qualities of Magnum, Rockford, Bond, and Robin Hood, with some cool samurai-style philosophizing and rueful self-awareness added in. I was more than ready to trade in my enduring fascination with Napoleon Solo and become Travis McGee instead.

Over the years, I’ve indulged myself in other binge reads, including the books of Dick Francis, Ian Fleming, Robert Parker, David Gemmel, James Herriott, Peter Robinson, and lesser known authors such as Gerald Hammond and Rebecca Shaw. Each time, I would read through their output, usually in a specific series, until I caught up with their current novel.

For me binge reading is a joy. To spend consistent time in company of one specific group of characters, or one author’s voice, is to spend quality time with good friends in a world far removed from the stresses of daily life. It is escapism at its purist.

Over the years, there have been times I’ve also engaged in retro-binge reading – rereading a favorite series of books in their correct order. I’ve done this on more than one occasion with both Dick Francis and Robert B. Parker, and each time has been as satisfying as the first.

There are a few books I make a point of reading every couple of years. Maugham’s The Razor’s Edge, Conrad’s Lord Jim, The Power of One by Bryce Courtenay, and both Round the Bend and Trustee from the Toolroom by Nevil Shute are all old fashioned, leisurely paced, and mannered by today’s standards, but each still engages me with the power and ideas between their covers. However, the re-reading of these stand alones is a different experience to binge reading or re-binging an entire series.

This year, I’ve been caught again in a binge reading frenzy. I’ve been a fan of Lawrence Block since I discovered Sins of the Father, his first Matt Scudder novel, as a new paperback original in 1976. I’ve stayed with the Scudder series over the years as well as branching out to sample many other novels in Block’s prodigious output.

While I truly admire Block as a novelist (and often give the collections of his Writer’s Digest columns as gifts to beginning writer friends), I am even more impressed with his mastery of the short story form. Recently, I picked up his new collection, Defender of the Innocent: The Casebook of Martin Ehrengraf featuring the tales of the dapper lawyer of the title as he cleverly – often brutally – ensures the innocence of his clients. All for a very large fee, of course.

I’d read a number of the Ehrengraf stories before, but it was a delight to feast on them again and to discover a couple of new tasty morsels within the collection. However, to stay with the food metaphor, I was still hungry when Ehrengraf twisted his last twist and freed his last client.

Wanting more in the same vein, I pulled up the first of Block’s Keller books on to my Kindle from where it had been waiting patiently in the cloud. Next thing you know, I was enjoying myself immensely re-binging my way through the four episodic Keller novels, Hit Man (1998), Hit List (2000), Hit Parade (2006) and Hit Me (2013), and the one full-length Keller novel, Hit and Run (2008).

The early stories featuring Keller, an amoral yet strangely endearing hitman, originally appeared in Playboy magazine in the 1990s. The stories gradually evolved and deepened from simply clever tales of calculated murder for a price, to engage the reader with a character who is both chilling and yet all too human – a man affected by events – such as 911 – and the personal crisis we all face.

When the first stories were originally collected, Block made an effort to link them in order of their appearance and did a seamless job of tying them all together so the final product became far more than just the sum of the parts. As he wrote more Keller stories, Block continued to link them in a manner that makes reading them in order again very satisfying.

As a reader and a writer, I find Block’s balancing act within these tales to be fascinating. While Keller displays many attributes of a sociopath, he doesn’t fit comfortably into the space within that label. He even examines himself in one story to see if the sociopath shoe fits, and it really doesn’t. He is something, almost indescribably, more. Somehow, he is who each individual reader would be if they were an amoral hitman. How Block brilliantly pulls this off is beyond me even as I reread these tales watching and dissecting Block’s craft closely.

As I write this column, my virtual bookmark is near the end of the last Keller collection, Hit Me, which continues to expand Keller’s world of stamps and murder, and continues Block’s mastery of short, connected, tales. As a result, I now find myself wondering what it is about anti-heroes that holds an enduring fascination for readers.

Perhaps it’s time for some more research by re-bingeing with Max Alan Collin’s Quarry novels – since a new once has recently been published by Hard Case Crime – or maybe Richard Stark’s (Donald Westlake’s) hard bitten Parker novels. Decisions, decisions…

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

BLOOD TO THE BONE REVIEW

BLOOD TO THE BONE REVIEW

YORKTOWN THIS WEEK HAS PUBLISHED AN EXTENSIVE AND LAUDATORY INTERVIEW WITH FIGHT CARD SHERLOCK HOLMES AUTHOR ANDREW SALMON AND A REVIEW OF HIS LATEST TWO-FISTED VICTORIAN OUTING, BLOOD TO THE BONE ... 

Salmon gets it right with Holmes in this book. It is a worthy member of the upper echelon of non-Doyle books with Holmes as the central figure, and that to me is all you can ask as a fan of the great detective.

TO READ THE FULL ARTICLE CLICK HERE

Sunday, February 8, 2015

DICK TRACY HALL OF FAME

DICK TRACY HALL OF FAME

THIS WAS CERTAINLY A DELIGHTFUL TURN OF EVENTS TO FIND MYSELF FEATURED IN THE DICK TRACY HALL OF FAME ... THX, JIM DORHETY ... A REAL HONOR ...

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

PULP NOW: WORDSMITH

PULP NOW: WORDSMITH!

Written in 1985/86, Wordsmith was a twelved issue series from Renegade Comics. It was very different in tone from the ususal comic fare of the time, but I enjoed every issue because of it's connection to the heart of the pulps and the men who wrote for them ...
Wordsmith tells the story of Clay Washburn, a penny-and-a-half a word pulp writier trying to make it from day to day during the Great Depression. Clay wants to write more important things, but the fates conspire to constantly keep him from this dream ...


Told in a stark, stripped down prose and an artistic style combining the look of line drawings under watercolors, Clay deos not solve crimes or fight evil doers in his spare time, he just writes and, frankly, spends a lot of time feeling sorry for himself for finiding himslef trapped in the story hungry world of the pulps ...
THE ACTION IN THE SERIES COMES ONLY FROM DEPICTIONS OF THE STORIES HE WRITES, WHICH ARE REALLY AT THE HEART OF THE SERIES.

It's as if somebody turned Frank Gruber's Pulp Jungle into a comic book ...

Good stuff, and still available with a little Google action ...



Sunday, January 25, 2015

REMEMBERING AUTHOR GERALD HAMMOND

REMEMBERING AUTHOR GERALD HAMMOND

I have just received the sad news of the passing of prolific Scottish mystery writer Gerald Hammond. I’ve been friends with Gerald for many years. So many years, in fact, that when we first started corresponding it was via those old fashioned things called letters, switching to email only after technology caught up with both of us. We shared writing problems, created plots together, and generally enjoyed each other’s company. I even had the opportunity to meet Gerald and his wife Gilda for dinner one evening as they passed through Los Angeles on their way to a cruise ship.

Born in 1926, Gerald lived in Scotland, where he retired from his profession as an architect in 1982 to pursue his love of shooting and fishing and to write full time. After his first novel, Fred in Situ, was published in 1965, Gerald became a prolific author with over 70 published novels. His last title, The Unkindest Cut, was published in 2012. Most of his novels were published under his own name, but he also wrote under the pseudonyms Arthur Douglas and Dalby Holden. 

Gerald is best known for his two mystery series characters: Gunsmith Keith Calder, and Three Oaks dog kennel owner John Cunningham. Both series allowed Gerald to indulge in his passions for guns, dogs, bird hunting, fly fishing, and all things outdoors in the Scottish countryside.

In his late seventies and eighties, while up and down in health, Gerald mostly left his series characters behind. He focused instead on standalone novels. Most of these were mysteries, but others featured excitements or passions that caught his fancy, including Formula One racing (Fine Tune), and gliding (Into the Blue).

In the twenty-three Keith Calder novels and the eleven Three Oaks novels, Gerald created enduring characters with strong family ties who all aged appropriately as the series continued. Often, Gerald let one of the series secondary characters take center stage if the plot revolved around something specific to their personality or situation.

The Keith Calder series started with Dead Game in 1979: Keith Calder is an itinerant gunsmith and shooting instructor. He is also a rascal with total disregard for the law, a skilled and dedicated poacher of birds of both feathers.

Calder is the guest at a shoot in the Scottish Borders when one of the syndicate members dies – apparently by accident. However, a bullet is found in his body. Yet only shotguns were carried on the shoot. Was he killed by a sniper or by a stray bullet? Or is there some other explanation?

Calder has a personal and very secret interest in the case, but his involvement deepens when the brother of his current girlfriend, Molly, is arrested and charged with the murder – especially as there is no love lost between the two men.

Molly asks Keith to use his expertise on her brother’s behalf. But in agreeing to make his own inquiries, Calder finds he is trying to save himself, and his activities lead him and Molly into violent personal danger.

In 1989, Gerald introduced Captain John Cunningham in the first Three Oaks mystery, Dog in the Dark: Captain John Cunningham is a veteran of the Falklands war who has recently been invalided out of the army.  Deciding to set up in civilian life as a trainer and breeder of gun dogs – a passion he can indulge and also earn a little money. He takes on Isobel Kitts as a partner, a trained vet whose skill is matched, perhaps too strongly, by her enthusiasm. 

Dog breeding proves to be a ruthlessly competitive business – and a hazardous one, as Cunningham learns when another breeder is found murdered.  Wore, it is soon discovered that the weapon was a product of Cunningham’s own workshop.

With the comfortable new life he’s planned under threat, Cunningham must extricate himself from a situation as dangerous, in its way, as anything he faced during his military career.

1991 brought the publication of the seventeenth Keith Calder novel, In Camera, a tale which Gerald and I had discussed in depth as it was being written.  My copy is hand inscribed in Gerald’s inimitable scrawl: Paul, you suggested parts of the plot. Now here's your promised copy. Hope you like it. Gerald. It holds pride of place on the shelf-and-a-half of my bookcases, which hold copies all of Gerald’s novels. 

In 2006, Gerald introduced another series character, Edinburgh's Detective Sergeant Honey Laird and her trusty crime-solving labrador, Pippa. Cold Relations was Honey’s first case, and was followed by two other novels in the series in 2007, A Dead Question and Loving Memory.

With his expert knowledge of guns and his love of the Scottish countryside, Gerald created marvelous backgrounds against which he set puzzling, credible, and thoroughly entertaining whodunits. His books were not long tedious, padded, thrillers. Instead they are almost of another age, ingenious plots, characters with whom you want to spend time, and a world to which you eagerly anticipate returning.

I enjoyed each of the books in all of Gerald’s series – and his standalones – and I continued to read and savor each new Gerald Hammond novel as it arrived. I am sad there will be no more to read. I am even sadder to have lost a good friend, but know Gerald lived a full life surrounded by family and dogs who loved him, and by the beauty of the Scottish outdoors he cherished so dearly.

For a full bibliography of Gerald Hammond’s books CLICK HERE