Monday, 22 June 2015

Book Review of Jerome Charyn's Bitter Bronx

The Overnight Bestseller is pleased to be participating in the Tribute Books Blog Tour for Bitter Bronx by Jerome Charyn.

Book Summary

Brooklyn is dead. Long live the Bronx! In Bitter Bronx, Jerome Charyn returns to his roots and leads the literary renaissance of an oft-overlooked borough in this surprising new collection.

In Bitter Bronx, one of our most gifted and original novelists depicts a world before and after modern urban renewal destroyed the gritty sanctity of a land made famous by Ruth, Gehrig, and Joltin' Joe.

Bitter Bronx is suffused with the texture and nostalgia of a lost time and place, combining a keen eye for detail with Jerome Charyn's lived experience. These stories are informed by a childhood growing up near that middle-class mecca, the Grand Concourse; falling in love with three voluptuous librarians at a public library in the Lower Depths of the South Bronx; and eating at Mafia-owned restaurants along Arthur Avenue's restaurant row, amid a "land of deprivation…where fathers trundled home…with a monumental sadness on their shoulders."

In "Lorelei," a lonely hearts grifter returns home and finds his childhood sweetheart still living in the same apartment house on the Concourse; in "Archy and Mehitabel" a high school romance blossoms around a newspaper comic strip; in "Major Leaguer" a former New York Yankee confronts both a gang of drug dealers and the wreckage that Robert Moses wrought in his old neighborhood; and in three interconnected stories—"Silk & Silk," "Little Sister," and "Marla"—Marla Silk, a successful Manhattan attorney, discovers her father's past in the Bronx and a mysterious younger sister who was hidden from her, kept in a fancy rest home near the Botanical Garden. In these stories and others, the past and present tumble together in Charyn's singular and distinctly "New York prose, street-smart, sly, and full of lurches" (John Leonard, New York Times).

Throughout it all looms the "master builder" Robert Moses, a man who believed he could "save" the Bronx by building a highway through it, dynamiting whole neighborhoods in the process. Bitter Bronx stands as both a fictional eulogy for the people and places paved over by Moses' expressway and an affirmation of Charyn's "brilliant imagination" (Elizabeth Taylor, Chicago Tribune).

 Price/Formats: $12.59 ebook,
$24.95 hardcover
Genre: Short Stories
Pages: 320
Publisher: Liveright
Release: June 15, 2015
ISBN: 9780871404893

Author Bio

Jerome Charyn's stories have appeared in The Atlantic, The Paris Review, The American Scholar, Epoch, Narrative, Ellery Queen, and other magazines. His most recent novel is I Am Abraham. He lived for many years in Paris and currently resides in Manhattan.

The Overnight Bestseller's Review of Bitter Bronx

Having previously reviewed Under the Eye of God by Jerome Charyn, I was already aware of the intense hold that the Bronx of his childhood has on his imagination. As he writes in the "Author's Note" to Bitter Bronx:
I realized that I had been shaped as a writer not with the words I didn’t have, not with lavish pencil cases, not with library books I had never borrowed, but with some ghost’s vocabulary. I’d filled that amorphous void of the South Bronx with my own imagination.

There is both nostalgia and comedy in Bitter Bronx, and it is written in Charyn's lyrical prose that speaks of eyes bleeding “the viscous color of tears” and of Jackson Pollock's paintings “with their lashing rhythm, as if colors could cry out," to give only two examples of his lyricism.

The thirteen stories in this book are populated by an exotic blend of characters who surprise us with their eccentricities at the same time as they touch us with their unrequited love, losses, and thwarted dreams. There is Lorelei, who lives with her father in a Bronx apartment, never able to move beyond its sad confines. There is the story of Adonis, which is particularly poignant in its depiction of the lonely mob widows who are never able to feel loved once again. There are three stories of the Silks, reminiscent of Salinger's fictional and dysfunctional families. In “The Major Leaguer,” we are reminded of Charyn's abiding interest in the players of a lost era of greatness who emerged from the Bronx such as Joe DiMaggio, the subject of Charyn's book, Joe Dimaggio: The Long Vigil. And, in the background, as in Under the Eye of God, outside forces conspire to destroy the author's beloved Bronx through development and land grabs. The shadow of Robert Moses is felt in each of these stories, a man who created a highway that irrevocably divided the Bronx into north and south.
Bitter Bronx will appeal to fans of Charyn's Isaac Sidel series, short story lovers in general, and those readers seeking a refreshing book with unconventional prose and colorful characters brought lovingly to life.

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Monday, 15 June 2015

Pleasant Discoveries

This weekend the Kemptville District Hospital Auxiliary held its fifty-fifth annual Heyday! garage and yard sale in the North Grenville curling arena. It's almost always raining, parking is impossible to find within a couple of blocks, and I try never to miss it each year. I was there Friday night, circulating with the dense crowd, elbowing my way in to the tables, searching for a bargain.

Among my purchases this year was a pleasant discovery: a Canon PowerShot A550 digital camera in its original box. When it came out in 2007, it was considered a decent, affordable model that retailed at $149 in what was at that time a burgeoning digital camera market. I took it out of the box, found that it still contained batteries and a memory card, and was able to turn it on. I shot a few pictures of boxes filled with cables and power bars and junk, and since it seemed to work all right I asked the volunteer behind the table how much he wanted for it. Five bucks. I gave him a nearly-new plastic fiver and dropped it into my bag.

Yesterday morning, nursing a sore head after a massive migraine attack that lasted all day Saturday, I took my new purchase out into the back yard for a test run, taking random shots, just enjoying being out in the warm morning air. Back inside, I uploaded the photos to my computer for a closer look. No problems. I brought one of the pictures into my copy of old-school Paint Shop Pro 5 (circa 1998) and added a text caption. Something to get the creative juices working before I tackled the manuscript in progress.

When you figure that the camera is eight years old, which is ancient for lifestyle technology and one step away from the local landfill site, picking it up at 97% off its original price was a decent deal. Everyone uses their phone to take pictures now, but I'll carry this little PowerShot in the canvas messenger bag I throw in the back seat of the car whenever I go out, and use it for impulse photography when I'm on the road. Et voilà:

Monday, 8 June 2015

Writer Beware®: Tools for Writers

If you're a writer and you haven't had the opportunity to check out the Writer Beware® website and blog, you might like to do so. Writer Beware® is sponsored by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America and other professional writers' associations and is devoted to bringing writers the latest news on publishing, as well as information on literary scams and schemes. There is also a Facebook page which contains articles of interest to writers and provides a forum for discussion.

An example of a recent post concerns the need for an online licensing system for copyrighted works. It can be found at

Writer Beware® also publishes a "Thumbs Down" list of publishers and agents that have been the subject of numerous complaints. Please see

Monday, 1 June 2015

Turning the Raccoon Loose on Facebook

Call me a reluctant independent, if you will.

Just like anyone else, I'd love to be working under contract with a traditional publisher, but since that's not currently in the cards it's important, for the sake of morale and courage in the face of the manuscript in progress, to embrace my independence.

Yea, to celebrate it, even.

I have fun with the @PlaidRaccoon Twitter account. For example,

The Raccoon Twitter persona has sort of taken on a life of its own. I have fun tweaking the beak of the Random Penguin while promoting our publications and otherwise fishing for notable trout in the ever-flowing Twitter stream.

So why not, in the spirit of embracing independence, spread the fun to Facebook? This way, the rascally raccoon isn't limited to 140 characters. Hmmm, on second thought......

Check out the Plaid Raccoon Press on Facebook, and if you're so inclined, LIKE us! You may be sorry you did, but oh well. What's life without risks? Just tap your paw on this link:


Monday, 25 May 2015

Shortlists Announced for the 2015 Crime Writer's Association Dagger Awards

The shortlists for the CWA's Dagger Awards were announced at the 2015 Crimefest held in Bristol, England, in mid-May:

The CWA International Dagger

Falling Freely, As If In A Dream by Leif GW Persson
Camille by Pierre Lemaitre
Cobra by Deon Meyer
Arab Jazz by Karim Miské
The Invisible Guardian by Dolores Redondo
Into a Raging Blaze by Andreas Norman

The CWA Short Story Dagger

"Apocrypha" by Richard Lange – Sweet Nothing
"Red Eye" by Michael Connelly and Dennis Lehane – Face Off
"The Hunter" by Dashiell Hammett – The Hunter & Other Stories
"Sweet Nothing" by Richard Lange – Sweet Nothing
"Juror 8" by Stuart Neville – OxCrimes
"The Dead Their Eyes Implore Us" by George Pelecanos – OxCrimes

[NOTE: The Face Off anthology features stories started by one author and finished by another. The proceeds from the OxCrimes anthology support Oxfam.]

The CWA Non Fiction Dagger

In Plain Sight: The Life and Lies of Jimmy Savile by Dan Davies
A Kim Jong-Il Production by Paul Fischer
Ghettoside: Investigating a Homicide Epidemic by Jill Leovy
Gun Baby Gun: A Bloody Journey into the World of the Gun by Iain Overton
One of Us: The Story of Anders Breivik and the Massacre in Norway by Ǻsne Seierstad
Just Mercy: a story of justice and redemption by Bryan Stevenson

The Endeavour Historical Dagger – sponsored by Endeavour Press

Havana Sleeping by Martin Davies
Lamentation by CJ Sansom
The Man from Berlin by Luke McCallin
The Seeker by SG MacLean
The Silent Boy by Andrew Taylor
The Taxidermist’s Daughter by Kate Mosse

The Debut Dagger – sponsored by Orion

Dark Chapter by Winnie M Li
Last Of The Soho Legends by Greg Keen
The Ice Coffin by Jill Sawyer
The Pure Drop by Nigel Robbins
Lock Me In by Kate Simants

 The award winners will be announced on June 30.

(Source: Crime Fiction Lover blog)

Monday, 18 May 2015

An Interview with Craig Johnson

Craig Johnson, the creator of the Longmire novels on which the popular television series Longmire is based, has published a new  novel, Dry Bones. If you're not familiar with the character, he's a Wyoming sheriff who is dedicated to his job and dogged in his pursuit of justice for those who are victims of crime.

In Johnson's latest book, the skeleton of a Tyrannosaurus rex is discovered on the property of a Cheyenne rancher, who becomes the murder victim. Not only must Longmire uncover the killer, but he must also deal with the politics of the number of groups--including the rancher's family, the tribe, and the federal government--who are claiming ownership of the skeleton.

Kirkus Review has posted a television interview with Craig Johnson, who talks about his life as a rancher, his use of newspaper articles from Wyoming and nearby states as inspiration for the Longmire stories so that they're firmly grounded in reality, and his enjoyment of book tours where he can meet with his fans and discover what they like (or don't like) about his novels.

To listen to this interview, please click here.

Monday, 11 May 2015

The Plaid Raccoon Press Turns Four!

Today, May 11, marks the fourth anniversary of the Plaid Raccoon Press!

Four years ago today the province of Ontario, in its infinite wisdom, issued a business license to this saucy little Canadian procyonid and turned him loose on the world to publish crime fiction and supernatural fiction. Goodness knows, my living room hasn't looked the same since.

As with all anniversaries, it's a time to glance back down the winding gravel road we've been mooching along in search of entertaining stories, modest revenue, and a chance to tweak the bill of the annoying Random Penguin and his ilk whenever possible. Hard to believe we've published four novels in the Donaghue and Stainer Crime Novel series, a supernatural thriller (The Ghost Man), and Sorrow Lake, the first March and Walker Crime Novel, as well as Lynn L. Clark's debut work, The Home Child in such a short time span. Seven publications in four years! Not bad for a little ring-tailed scamp who'd rather be off raiding someone's corn crib or catching trout in the stream out back.

Of course, being an independent author has its down side. Can't get mainstream media outlets to review my novels. The largest bookstore chain in the country won't stock them on their shelves or list the paperbacks in their database. Not eligible for government grants because I don't fit their definition of a professional author.

It is what it is, right?

On the up side, my fourth Donaghue and Stainer novel, The Rainy Day Killer, was longlisted for the 2014 Arthur Ellis Award for best crime novel in Canada, placing ahead of submissions by Margaret Atwood, Linwood Barclay, Louise Penny et al.

I get fan mail from people who've read one of my books and were sufficiently pleased by it to write me an e-mail to let me know.

I meet people at art festivals and craft shows who bought one of my books the last time I was there and have come back for another.

So never mind the disdainful newspaper editors, the elusive agents, and all the other professionals in the industry who consider independent authors such as myself to be a pox upon their house. For each one of you, I have ten who've actually read one of my novels and go out of their way to tell me they can't wait for the next one.

THAT's what it's all about, folks. 

So today we're blowing out the candles on our anniversary fishcake and making a wish for the future.

Hard to believe the Raccoon is already four. He keeps crossing the road on his way to that cornfield on the other side, and he's still fast enough to get out of the way of the trucks before they blast him into next week. Seven books in four years, and two more to come before he turns five!

And as I always say -- there's nothing else I'd rather be doing!

P.S. Don't miss this opportunity to check out our newly revamped website. The Raccoon is very proud of it, and he suggests you peek into the new webstore before you leave!!!