October 8, 2013

October 8, 2013

Books of the Week:

  • Dexter’s Final Cut, Jeff Lindsay
  • Chimes at Midnight, Seanan McGuire
  • The Thinking Woman’s Guide to Real Magic, Emily Croy Barker
  • Never Go Back, Lee Child

Jeff Lindsay’s “Dexter” books are as different from the television show as my books are from “True Blood.” Dexter’s Final Cut is the last in the series, the seventh novel. It might be reading too much into this bitter, clever book to say that Lindsay may have worked some of his ambiguous feelings about Hollywood into this narrative . . . but I will say some of his observations are spot-on. Dexter, blood spatter expert and serial killer, is assigned to shepherd an actor around who will play a blood spatter expert on television. Unfortunately for Dexter, he also accepts the role of bodyguard to the female star of the series. Poor Dexter! He’s blinded by visions of mojitos and luxury suites forever, and does not see the obvious machinations around him with his usual killer clarity. This is a must-read for anyone who’s enjoyed the previous books.


Seanan McGuire works her usual magic with Chimes at Midnight. I am a firm fan of hers, obviously, and even her lesser books are great reads. Chimes is not a lesser book, but it proceeds at such a breakneck speed that I found it hard to appreciate some of the action. In Chimes, Toby is banished by the Queen in the Mists, and decides to overthrow her. It’s convenient that Toby learns of a perfect replacement just at the right moment, but that’s the only snag in an otherwise excellent adventure.


The jaunty title of Emily Croy Barker’s book is at odds with the sometimes grim nature of the narrative. Graduate student Nora is at a bad place in her academic and personal career when she wanders into a pocket realm of the fae. She meets Ilissa, its queen, a mistress of illusion with a terrible son, Raclin. Soon Nora is more beautiful, unable to think for herself, and married to Raclin. A chance encounter with a magician, Aruendiel, leads to him rescuing her when she is on the point of death from Raclin’s mistreatment. As she recovers from her wounds, she and Aruendiel gradually learn to respect each other. She becomes his pupil. The Thinking Woman’s Guide to Real Magic does not have a fairy-tale ending, but it does cry out for a sequel.


Never Go Back is the eighteenth Jack Reacher book. It’s hard for me to believe that Reacher’s been a figure in the American psyche for that long. In Never Go Back, Reacher does exactly that. He returns to his former command, the 110th MP, in Virginia, close to Washington. The woman he’s come to see is missing, under arrest. The charges against her are ridiculous, in Reacher’s estimation; but very soon she’s not the only one in trouble. What does Reacher do to get out of trouble? He uses his logic and his fists. I enjoy these books so much that I read them very uncritically, but Lee’s work has never let me down. If you haven’t read one of the Reacher books yet, start at the beginning and enjoy the ride. One of the great pleasures is the even and consistent tone of the books. I thought Reacher was getting more savage in one book, and I commented on that to Lee; but he said in his estimation, Reacher was always the same. I reread the books to verify, and Lee is absolutely right, of course.

Blog: Old Dogs and New Trick

I’m not middle-aged any more, unless I’m heading for the realm of Methuselah. I thought of excusing myself from learning anything besides how to write a better book, the pursuit that has driven me for the past 30 years. But when opportunities arise, it seems like scoffing at good fortune to dismiss them. Right?


As a tentative step in that direction, a couple of years ago Christopher Golden and I were talking about a plot line I had. It was this: a girl’s living in a cemetery, and she has amnesia. She only knows someone is trying to kill her. She lives in a crypt.



I couldn’t make this idea go anywhere, mentally. I didn’t see it as a novel, and there were too many ramifications to make it a short story. Chris emailed me a couple of months later and suggested that the concept might make a great graphic novel.


EEEEK. I’d never written a graphic novel. I had no idea of how to format it, where to start. I was daunted. Then I reasoned that Chris was a graphic novel expert. Maybe it was time for me to collaborate? This was another thing I’d never done before. Chris, however, is an experienced collaborator, too. Very anxiously, I made the suggestion to him, and he was gung ho. One problem solved! We were fortunate enough to sell it quickly in America and the UK, and we’ve finished Volume One. The artist is Don Kramer, and it looks fabulous. Volume One will be out in October. We’re working on Two.


Then Chris asked me to be in an anthology of his, “Dark Duets.” Here’s the hitch: the story had to be written by two authors, and it had to be dark, as the title implies. I thought of several people I might ask, but in the end (full of fear) I asked my friend Rachel Caine, who can be dark and horrible.



Though I was as nervous as if I were asking her out on a date, she agreed. We meshed our ideas, she wrote the fabulous first draft, I rewrote it with my own embellishments, and we sent it off to Chris, who accepted it.


My current music listening is in line with the theme. For the first time in my life, I’m listening to opera. I can’t understand the language, but I’m loving the voices. I’m starting on arias. I don’t know if I’ll ever move on to full-length works . . . but it’s a start.


Charlaine Harris