Tuesday, June 30, 2015

CHARLIE MARTZ Shows Early Elmore Leonard Work

Charlie Martz and Other Stories by Elmore Leonard is a collection of early, mostly unpublished stories from the iconic crime fiction writer, who died in 2013.

The stories show Leonard beginning to find his trademark style: clean, hard prose along with tight, streetwise dialogue, and salted with simmering menace.

Some of the stories included are crime pieces like the Detroit mobster vengeance tale, "One, Horizontal." Other stories like "The Trespassers," and "For Something to Do," show ordinary people put into threatening situations.

Then there are the Western stories, where Leonard first made his writing mark with novels like Hombre and Valdez is Coming. Two standout tales are the title story "Charlie Martz," and the follow-up "Siesta in Paloverde."

This collection is a varied, interesting read for Elmore Leonard devotees. Leonard was a writer's writer and a rigorous craftsman and Charlie Martz shows how he learned that craft.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

FINDERS, KEEPERS a Dark Crime Tale From Stephen King

Finders, Keepers by Stephen King is a new crime tale about a famed, reclusive author's unpublished manuscripts and an obsessed fan who will kill to possess those unseen literary works.

The deranged fan is Morris Bellamy, a ruthless sociopath who murders the Salinger-like author and steals the hoard of manuscripts. Morris doesn't want to merely sell the material, he wants to be the first one to read the unseen works by his idolized author. But he never gets the chance. He's sent to prison for another crime and the stolen notebooks remain where he hid them.

Years later, a teen named Pete Staubers stumbles onto the hidden notebooks and plans to sell them himself on the literary black market. But Morris Bellamy is paroled, and when he finds out who has his stolen trove, he goes after Pete Staubers.

The novel brings back a character from King's prior novel, Mr. Mercedes, retired police detective Bill Hodges. It's the stolid veteran Hodges who enters the picture to try to protect Pete from the maniacal killer Bellamy.

The obsessed literary fan theme has echoes of an earlier King classic, Misery. Finders, Keepers is notable mainly for its vivid character portraits and for being written in the author's earthy, idiomatic style.That said, the novel is an entertaining read from Stephen King, even if not at the top level of some of his past work.

Monday, June 1, 2015

GATHERING PREY - New Crime Thriller by John Sandford

Gathering Prey by John Sandford is the latest in the popular crime novel series that features Minnesota State Police investigator Lucas Davenport.

What begins with a young panhandler drifter going missing leads Davenport into a multiple murder case that just keeps spreading in scope.

Lucas gets on the trail of a roving, rag-tag crew of disciples led by a sociopathic, self-styled guru named Pilate. The disciples travel the country in a road convoy, luring and killing random victims to suit their whims.

As Davenport closes in along with a posse of local police officers, the hunt turns into a multi-state chase that leads up to a wild gun battle in a one-horse town in the backwoods of the Michigan Upper Peninsula.

The novel moves like a bullet train through the twists of the chase and the running shoot-out with the fleeing, ruthless disciples. John Sandford continues to produce inventive new plots built around the long running main character of Lucas Davenport. Gathering Prey is an outstanding read that further confirms Sandford's place in the top rank of crime thriller authors.

BEACH RATING: 4 Palm Trees