Saturday, March 12, 2011

Resurrecting Dashiell Hammett

For those of you who follow All Things Considered on NPR, this will be old news. I can't tell you how excited I am to read the new short story by author Dashiell Hammett, "So I Shot Him." If anything is unusual about this release, it's obviously the simple fact that Hammett has been dead for fifty years.

Hammett defined hard-boiled detective fiction in his day, setting the standards for authors ever since. His works were frequently translated into film, and found success wherever they went - both for his spare, conscientious writing style and the seemingly unsolvable mysteries it conveyed.

If you're looking for a writer to learn from, he's one to top your list. Any new finds in the deep drawers of his imagination, no matter how far from their original source, are worth our time, attention, and excitement.

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Interviews, etc.

The last few days have been full of good conversations. Which is all the more satisfying because they were also interviews and panel discussions, and a good conversation well-shared is twice the pleasure. Yesterday afternoon, I joined A Book and a Chat radio host Barry Eva for an interview. You can listen to all the juicy details here. It was a great conversation about Detour to Murder, developing a story, and writing in general. Be sure to tune into Barry's show regularly for more such interviews.

This past Saturday also saw me joining ZOVA Books publisher Molly Lewis for a conversation on women in the book industry. As a past board member of Sisters in Crime LA, it's a subject I've been familiar with for a while. We talked about changes in the publishing industry, the process of writing, and what resources are available for women in the industry today. There are more discussions lined up at the Ovitt Family Community Library in Ontario, CA, and you can check out the calendar of events here. It's always a pleasure to take part in the writing community at a local level, and I'm excited for more opportunities like these.

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Books Worth Reading

The new question I'm hearing around the book blogs and forums lately is a perfect conversation starter - but one we never would have asked only a few years ago. What's on your Kindle?

I've got plenty of books on mine that I haven't gotten around to reading yet, but I thought I'd list a few that I've been interested in for a while, along with some reviews I've been reading that have peaked my interest.

The first would be David Peace's Nineteen Seventy-Four. Small wonder why I'm interested in this one. The book is the first of a quartet, and Peace's debut novel. Set in the title year, it's a gritty, noirish character driven story that subsequently landed David Peace a Granta nod and a series of film adaptations in the UK. There's an excellent blog review here.

The book industry has been experiencing what we could curiously call a "Swedish Invasion." Cynical readers might refuse to look twice at the broadening library of crime novels coming from the otherwise peaceful northern nation, but there's a reason these Swedish novels are experiencing significant attention. They're just good. Box 21, by Anders Roslund and Borge Hellstrom is no exception. The writing duo has been getting a lot of attention from serious readers since Publishers Weekly, the New York Times, and a host of other reviewers gave the book a standing ovation upon its release.
T. J. English's The Savage City is a historical narrative of New York City in the '60s and '70s, told with the attention and suspense of a dramatic police procedural. Being a man of Los Angeles, the Big Apple holds a whole different kind of narrative novelty to me. I'd put this book in the queue with Erik Larson's The Devil and the White City in terms of taking the history of a city, finding it's pulse, and turning its narrative into a kind of cult object.

My reading list is always long, but ever open to suggestions. Feel free to add to my list in the comments below. In the meantime, what's on your Kindle?

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

For the Love of Film

The history of film is littered with surprises. This year's Academy Awards didn't hold too many of those, though. There may have been a moment when we held our breath in curiosity, but I'm not sure too many of us were actually on the edges of our seats. Most of us knew who and what would win the major awards this Sunday evening, and we weren't disappointed. The King's Speech was an audience favorite, regardless of the impressive titles that shared its nominations.

There has been a lot of blog buzz about the tendency of the Academy to favor warm and fuzzy over gritty and edgy (like the year that Dances With Wolves beat out Goodfellas, for example), but it's hard to imagine anyone characterizing most of the "gentler" Oscar winners as warm and fuzzy when they were first released. They're usually only considered tame in contrast with something else remarkably un-tame. And this year is no exception.

For all my love of gritty, film noir, I can't help but be glad The King's Speech won. It was a pitch perfect movie. The other films in the line-up were impressive, and I'm glad the Academy has expanded the best picture list to give well-deserved attention to otherwise poorly acknowledged films. But there is something so satisfying, so delicately successful about The King's Speech. Not a moment of that movie was wasted, and every actor delivered every line with excellence.