Friday, 27 July 2012

Crime Fiction Grab Bag, No. 2

The weekend's coming, which means it's time for another crime fiction grab bag here on The Overnight Bestseller, where we share links to the latest tidbits from our favorite genre.

Crime fiction author Michael Connelly has won the 2012 Harper Lee Prize for legal fiction with The Fifth Witness, which features Lincoln lawyer Mickey Haller. The selection committee included Linda Fairstein, Condoleezza Rice, and Lisa Scottoline. Read about it here.
The Sabotage Times (whose motto is "We Can't Concentrate So Why Should You?") provides an interview with J.J. Connolly, who riffs on his latest novel, Viva La Madness, the long-awaited sequel to the black comedy gangster novel Layer Cake, the film version of which stars Daniel Craig.

Crime Time informs us that Harvill Secker has acquired the UK and Commonwealth rights for A Treacherous Paradise, the new novel by Henning Mankell. Translated by Laurie Thompson, it will be published in June 2013.

Still on a Scandinavian theme, since that region continues to be a hotspot for crime fiction, Wired UK offers six tips on how to write your own Nordic thriller, as suggested by Barry Forshaw, author of Death in a Cold Climate: A Guide to Scandinavian Crime Fiction. Delightfully tongue-in-cheek, they cover characterization, amount of bloodshed, and of course, an appropriately cold setting. (Where's the Canadian equivalent, folks? Who's up for that one?)

Finally, at the bottom of the bag this week, we pull out from CNN an amusing article suggesting travel destinations for crime fiction lovers wanting to check out the settings of their favorite crime fiction novels. Locales include: Baltimore; Brattleboro, Vermont; Edinburgh, Scotland; Gaborone, Botswana; and, inevitably, Sweden.

Enjoy, and see you next time!

Sunday, 22 July 2012

Indie Music Alert, Part II: Strand of Oaks

Yesterday, in Part I of our latest independent music alert, I posted about Coast Jumper, a terrific quintet from upstate New York, now based in California, who are a self-described "band of music brothers." Today, in Part II, I'd like to draw your attention to a performer who has walked a completely different road as a solo artist, following a personal vision that is at times solitary, eccentric, and introspective.

Quite simply, Tim Showalter is a terrific talent. Originally Strand of Oaks was a three-piece band in which Tim played organ. They debuted in 2003 to play "post rock." Lacking vocals, they played a Noam Chomsky speech over the music. However, in what was a turning point in his young life, Tim came home one night to find his house burned down and all his belongings and equipment gone, except for an acoustic guitar which he then he took up quite simply because "that's the only instrument I had." His then-fiancé left him, and he ended up sleeping on park benches in suburban Philadelphia. This experience produced the songs that formed his first album, Leave Ruin (2009, La Sociéte Expéditionnaire), in which "sparse guitar, Hammond, Rhodes and wooden instruments support an atmosphere that is tender and raw, at times uncomfortable, shockingly candid, and unforgettable."

He taught elementary school in Wilkes-Barre before making a full-time commitment to music and released his second album, Pope Killdragon, in November 2010. Some of the cuts on this second album, he says, go all the way back to 2005, when he used to spend a lot of time recording stuff on a tape player in the bathroom because "the reverb was good." The subject of some of his songs are quite startling: "John F. Kennedy authors a fable about a knight; Dan Aykroyd carries out a revenge killing for the death of John Belushi."

This month marks the release of his third album, Dark Shores. I can't say enough about what I heard while browsing the available cuts on this album. Tim describes his music as a cross between early Neil Young and early Bruce Springsteen, and I can certainly hear echoes of Neil Young and Crazy Horse here and there. Tim speaks fondly in interviews of his love of electronic music and he's probably still a closet keyboardist at heart, but I have to say that it's his remarkable, unique voice and acoustic guitar that make me stop whatever I'm doing and listen with full concentration. "I Need You Like I Need The Snow" has to be one of the most striking songs I've heard in a long while. (It's still running through my head as I proofread this post. I love it.)

There's a certain amount of "the next Bon Hiver" hype that's starting to circulate, especially given the bushy beard and long hair (which he apparently hasn't cut since 2006), but Tim Showalter deserves to be enjoyed for his own remarkable talent, in addition to his musical roots that run all the way back through Neil Young and Springsteen, Nick Drake, Robert Johnson and every other solitary, intensely-personal voice who ever picked up a guitar, a pen, and a piece of paper and tried to explain to the world how they felt about it all.

You owe it to yourself to listen to Tim Showalter's music, and if you treasure the independent artistic spirit as I do, you'll understand how it will be difficult to find a greater inspiration than Strand of Oaks.

Read more about Strand of Oaks from Seizure Chicken, Shaking Through, Hear Ya!, Welcome to Flavor Country, JDub Records, Communion, and Bandcamp.

Saturday, 21 July 2012

Indie Music Alert: Coast Jumper

Once again The Overnight Bestseller is pleased to wave the flag for another independent music name you need to know about and definitely need to hear.

Coast Jumper is a quintet from upstate New York who met at college, discovered common dreams and ambitions, and spent a long winter in a dimly-lit basement recording what would become Grand Opening, their debut album. They then made the long trek across the continent to California -- hence the name, Coast Jumper.

Released in August 2011, Grand Opening features the kind of cuts that keep you on the edge of your seat. Ostensibly dreampop with threads of progressive rock and folk, their music charms you with its great vocals and romantic arrangements before cuffing you on the side of the head. Pay attention! Don't make assumptions! Be ready for anything! Their songs create a great sense of anticipation as they unfold. Where are they going? What will they try next? It's no surprise that Grand Opening is currently the highest artist-recommended rock album on Bandcamp, a publishing platform for bands to sell their music directly to their fan base.

Currently touring in California, Coast Jumper can be followed on Twitter and Facebook. If you support independent musicians who work very hard to bring you fresh and innovative music, you owe it to yourself to check out these five young men.

Read more about Coast Jumper from Leonard's Lair Music Reviews, Frost Click, SYFFAL, and Heroes of Indie Music.

The inspiration for this post came from a tweet yesterday by Paper Garden Records in support of Coast Jumper's Grand Opening. Paper Garden Records started as a small indie label based in Brooklyn, NY and has been steadily growing. Their roster includes Little Tybee, a band about whom I've previously raved in this blog, and Pree, about whom I have inexplicably not yet raved but will very soon.

Coming next, however, in tomorrow's post, is the second half of this indie music alert, which will feature "the next Bon Hiver!" Don't miss it.

Thursday, 19 July 2012

Communicating With Men: What's Your Opinion?

Do you need to talk down to your man?

I just read an article in the latest issue of a popular women's magazine on communication strategies women can use to improve the quality of responses they receive from the man in their life when they talk to him. The author of the article is a relationship specialist who offers women three tips on how to "speak their man's language."

Her first tip, "say what you mean," sounds like common sense. Don't, she cautions, say something like, "I love that blouse" when you mean "Can you buy me that blouse for my birthday?" This is because, she explains, "men don't pick up on those nuances ... men aren't equipped to unscramble the message."

Her second tip is quite interesting: "angle your body." Sitting down in front of your husband or boyfriend "will ignite his primal instinct to compete, resist, or fight." It's best to approach him from the side in order to "neutralize threatening body language."

Her third tip is to "choose tangible words." When speaking to your man, she explains, "it's okay to start with an abstract term [such as love, respect, romance] but you must quickly move in the direction of concrete words for your message to be heard [such as flowers or dishes]."

I admit that, as a man, I was initially surprised and offended by this article. It did take me about a year of marriage, I will say, before I understood my wife's code language, but I would imagine every couple goes through this learning curve, and since I was actually born with a brain, I possess the requisite equipment to unscramble her messages, thank you very much. And, oh yes -- I learned in the first week of marriage not to buy clothing for my wife. If she said "I love that blouse," it meant she was wondering whether or not to buy it, not whether or not I would buy it for her, for crying out loud. I only made that mistake once, thanks.

I would also like to think that, if my wife sits down in front of me instead of edging up to me like a pickpocket, I'm not going to explode like some insane male gorilla whose territory is being invaded. Good Lord. Perhaps this is a good tip for a detective trying to wheedle information out of a reluctant informant, but for women and men in a normal, loving relationship? Hmmm.

Then there was the crack about not understanding big words and fuzzy concepts. Me Tarzan. You Jane. Me hungry. Eat food now.

But after my vision cleared and my blood pressure went back down, I began to wonder. Is this how women see men today? Do women seriously believe they are in a relationship with a primitive, brain-locked, dull-eyed galoot who has to be spoken to in small, concrete words and approached on an angle so he won't fly into a territorial frenzy?

Oh, brother. As an author who works very hard to develop realistic characters, I need to know whether or not the current generation of women feel this kind of pat-him-on-the head and hand-him-a-beer treatment is appropriate. Should fictional characters reflect this new perception of modern males? Or was I correct in my initial reaction that this is an unfair stereotype, a Homer Simpson parody, a gross over-simplification of the modern relationship between men and women?

Tell me what you think. We'll call it research!

Saturday, 14 July 2012

Crime Fiction Grab Bag

Here at The Overnight Bestseller we're very conscious of our duty as a representative of the crime fiction community, and to that end we present a grab bag of notes and links to items of interest to readers.

Author Colin Dexter will receive the Theakstons Old Peculier Outstanding Contribution to Crime Fiction award on 19 July at this year's Harrogate crime-writing festival. Dexter, who retired from teaching to begin writing mysteries, is the creator of the very popular character Inspector Morse. Read more here, courtesy of the Guardian.

Listen to an excellent interview of Louise Penny, author of A Trick of the Light, conducted not long ago by Shelagh Rogers on CBC Radio. I've listened to this interview twice so far with great interest ....

Read Globe and Mail reviewer Margaret Cannon's recent roundup of summer crime fiction reading, in which she looks at six books of interest, including offerings by Canadians John Lawrence Reynolds and Jeffrey Round.

What's new coming off the presses this summer from Scandinavian crime fiction authors? Shots Magazine gives us a preview of new books by Karin Fossum, Jo Nesbo and Arne Dahl.

And don't forget to check out Jack Batten's latest reviews in his Toronto Star blog Whodunit, in which he looks at books by Anne Perry, Morley Torgov, and -- good heavens!-- Michael J. McCann!

Tuesday, 10 July 2012

Three Dark Threads Running Through My Crime Fiction

Things have been very quiet lately here at The Overnight Bestseller as I continue to work on the manuscript of the third Donaghue and Stainer Crime Novel, The Fregoli Delusion. My target for completion of a revised draft is the beginning of September, so I'm feeling the pressure!

Recently, however, I took the time to write a guest post for the blog Find a Good Book to Read, which is managed by the writing duo known as Wodke Hawkinson. It gave me an opportunity to work through some of the themes I'm exploring in the Donaghue and Stainer series, and I invite you to slip over there now to give it a look: