Friday, October 31, 2003

James Patterson is the Nora Roberts of the mystery world: a writer of some talent who churns out bestsellers at a pace that all but guarantees most of them won't be very good -- but ensures he'll make dough hand over fist.

His latest is The Big Bad Wolf (Little, Brown & Company, $27.95) and it's actually pretty darn good; probably the best book he's written in some time. It helps that it's in the Alex Cross series, which is the only good work he's done.

I still like Alex as a character, even though he's not even remotely believable. Pet peeve: Patterson really has to stop saying that Cross looks like a "young Muhammad Ali." The young Ali was in his 20s. Cross must be at least 50. Give it a break, J.P.!

Stephen King recently called Patterson's books "dopey bestsellers" and he's right. Sometimes, though, that's the kind of book you want to read. If that's the case, you could do worse that Big Bad Wolf.

Thursday, October 30, 2003

Just read my first book from new friend (and fellow Bouchcercon panelist) Steve Brewer: Bullets (Intrigue, $24.95). You wouldn't expect a book about a, hitwoman to be lighthearted and funny, but this is. It had me laughing out loud on occasion, which doesn't happen all that often with mysteries (unless I'm reading Janet Evanovich).

Good characters and a swift-moving plot make this an enjoyable read. (I especially liked the two sad sack wannabe bad guys who drive around in a limo and keep getting the crap beat out of them.) I haven't read anything else of Steve's, but I think I'll have to give him a try.

Tuesday, October 28, 2003

Read Gary Phillips' new book Bangers (Dafina, $15.00). Gary was first recommended to me a few years back as an author I'd probably like, but I never got around to reading him until now. (After hanging out with Gary at Bouchercon, and finding him to be such a nice guy, I figured I oughta read his book.)

This is hardboiled noir at its best. The story is about a BAM (By Any Means) Squad on the LAPD who are going up against the worst gangbangers. Reminiscent of the F/X show "The Shield" and just as good. Gary does a great job of weaving social commentary and a streets-eye view of LA with a slam bam action plot.

If you like George Pelecanos, I think you'll like Gary Phillips. Give him a go.

Friday, October 24, 2003

April Smith's piece on the Bouchercon bar scene ran in the Times this morning. (Registration is required to read it, but it's free.) My witty and informative quotes didn't make the cut, though. I was also just out of frame in the accompanying picture. (Memo to self: next time, stand closer to the famous writers.)

April seemed like a very nice person. I felt kind of bad for her, as almost everyone, it seemed, was tossing her book in the donate box. (Convention attendees received a bag full of free books and I think just about everyone got a copy of Good Morning Killer.) I hope she didn't look in the bin.

I also saw a few copies of Eddie Muller's The Distance, which I fished out. You'd think that the book that won the Shamus Award for Best First P.I. Novel would get a limit more respect. Or maybe the fact that it won the Gumshoe Award!

Tuesday, October 21, 2003

Here is my report from Bouchercon -- if you don't like name-dropping, you should probably skip it.

What is Bouchercon? Basically it's the best place in the world to be if you love mystery books. Billing itself as the "World Mystery Books Convention," Boucheron is a 4-day festival of books, books, and more books.

As you might expect, I had a blast. I don't know if I've recovered yet or not. Fortunately, I was able to order a new liver on Ebay, so I should be my old self in short order.

Bouchercon is a great convention because you actually have the chance to meet and talk to so many great writers, fans, agents, editors, etc. And they're all so nice!


*meeting and making friends with people who really, really love books

*having drinks with legendary crime writer James Crumley

*long conversations with people I'd only talked to before through email, including Gayle Lynds, Barry Eisler, Eddie Muller, Denise Hamilton, Julia Spencer-Fleming and Elaine Flinn

*chatting and having drinks with Mike Connelly, Laura Lippman, Ian Rankin, C.J. Box, Gary Phillips, Kent Harrington, Dennis McMillan, Jonathon King, Jason Starr, Peter Clement, David Corbett, Rick Demarinis and Otto Penzler

*sitting by the pool with Joe Gores and talking about Bob Ludlum and Donald Westlake

*the incredible interview of James Lee Burke by Mike Connelly

*meeting Earl Emerson, Steve Hamilton, Gar Anthony Haywood, G.M. Ford, John Connolly, Richard Barre, Mark Billingham and Ridley Pearson

*talking about the Myron Bolitar series with Harlan Coben (he's very tall!) Harlan said he's pleased that people love Myron & Win and want them to return -- and he'd like that, too. But he's waiting for the right story and isn't going to force it just because people want it. Sounds wise.

*moderating a panel with gambling expert James Swain, who later showed me some awesome card tricks. Also on my panel were Richard Moore, Carole Nelson Douglas and Steve Brewer. All in all, I think it was a success, although I had no idea what the hell I was doing.

*talking to James Lee Burke as we both exited the men's room (he initiated the conversation); it was the 1st Bouchercon for each of us

*semi-drunkenly telling Karin Slaughter that I'd just reviewed her new book for the Chicago Sun-Times...and realizing later that I'd panned it

*crashing parties given by the Mystery Writers of America and a bunch of publishers

*being interviewed by April Smith (Good Morning, Killer) for the L.A. Times

*walking by Gregg Hurwitz and then doing a doubletake when I saw his name tag -- he looked like he's about 18 years old! very handsome, too

Wow...first Bouchercon and it was a trip. I urge everyone to try to attend one some time if you ever have the chance.