Saturday, August 27, 2016

The Laws of the Spirit World by Khorshed Bhavnagri, 2009

In Ghost, Sam (Patrick Swayze) is killed by a thief in an alley, leaving his girlfriend Molly (Demi Moore) shattered. It is no ordinary street mugging. Sam comes back as a spirit to warn Molly that her life is in danger. But since he cannot be seen or heard, he takes the help of a reluctant psychic, Oda Mae Brown (Whoopi Goldberg), to communicate with Molly and save her from his crooked friend and mastermind Carl Bruner (Tony Goldwyn).

The film was a big hit because of the unusual storyline and the romantic pair of Swayze and Moore and, I suspect, because of its underlying theme—afterlife—and the mystery surrounding it.

Everyone at some point or another wonders—is there life after death? If yes, then what is it like? So far a credible answer has been as elusive as the possibility of life in space. It has even eluded mystics who, for want of a better response, instruct us to keep our faith and not question the here and hereafter.

In The Laws of the Spirit World (2009), Khorshed Bhavnagri takes the reader through her painful quest to find the answer that eventually helps her turn her personal tragedy into an endearing spiritual journey—and come to terms with the death of her loved ones. Along the way she rediscovers peace, solace, and more.

Khorshed’s small world and her faith in God came crashing down when her two motorsport-loving sons, Vispi, 31, and Ratoo, 30, died in a car accident one winter’s day in December 1980. It was all but the end of the world for her and her husband, Rumi Bhavnagri, who lived in Byculla in central Bombay (now Mumbai). 

“I had been very religious. Now, for the first time, I began to question whether there was a God. If there was a God then why should He do this terrible thing to me, snatch my sons away when I have never harmed a hair on anyone’s head? I was ready to give up God, religion and life,” the distraught mother said.

Khorshed Bhavnagri
A few days after the funeral, a chance encounter with a powerful medium changed their lives once again—only this time for the better and for the spiritual benefit of scores of other sufferers. The Bhavnagris provided guidance and comfort to both young and old, and offered counsel to troubled people. Questions about personal and spiritual matters were addressed and minds set at ease. These are reproduced in the second part of the book.

The psychic held seances to help Khorshed and Rumi “communicate” with their sons in the spirit world. They did so first by automatic writing and then via telepathy. “You must not cry for us or miss us, we are much happier here,” Vispi and Ratoo told their parents who, guided by the boys, set out on their noble mission of spiritual awakening. The devout couple were inspired by the life and teachings of spiritual messiahs.

The 380-page book, published by Mumbai's Jaico Publishing House, is the true and affecting story of grief-stricken parents and their desperate search for the meaning of existence, the realms of life and death, the power of the subconscious mind, and concepts of good and evil and heaven and hell. It is borne out of their sons’ desire to explain the laws of the spirit world to the mortal world.

The Laws of the Spirit World is not out of my comfort zone. Since I have been reading spiritual books from my early teens, the book resonated with me. But there is plenty of food for thought even for those not inclined to the metaphysical. What is required is an open mind and the willingness to accept concepts beyond one’s deep-rooted beliefs and principles. It offers a refreshing perspective on various aspects of life and death, and it is up to readers to accept or reject them. For example, readers who don’t believe in the afterlife and the mediums and seances associated with it can still take away valuable tips the author offers on how people, as individuals or families, can lead a happy and contented life. Isn’t that the purpose of every beautiful life?

The writing is simple and lucid and set in broad typeface that makes the book aesthetically appealing.

Rumi and Khorshed Bhavnagri passed away in 1996 and 2007, respectively, and as they would've, no doubt, liked everyone to know, “happily reunited with their sons in the spirit world.”

A few reviews from Amazon

“The book has changed my life, and I am sure it will change yours too.”
— Shiamak Davar, noted Indian choreographer and follower of Khorshed Bhavnagri

“An excellent read. Changes one's perspective towards life. A book for believers in God, Karma and reincarnation. Death, the imminent event in everyone's life, is mostly an enigma. This book enables the reader to strike peace with death and solve that mystery i.e. death is nothing but a foray into eternal life.”
— Radha

“For one who has read Indian philosophy, and works (of) Dr. Brian Weiss etc., I find that this book reinforces the same universal message. It takes faith to believe in the spirit world but the message is universal—we need to connect with our inner selves and everyone around us is a noble person living out his/her 'spirit'ual goal.”
— J. Mallaparajuon

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Preview: The Ghost Squad by John Gosling, 1959

Being a member of the Ghost Squad was a lonely job.

Cover of my hardback first edition.
There are books read and reviewed. And then there are books unread and written about. Because you can’t wait to tell your readers about it. The Ghost Squad by John Gosling, a former police officer with Scotland Yard, is the kind of book you feel unusually excited and compelled to write about as soon as you buy it. I’m doing so after reading only the first chapter.

You see it at a book exhibition and you grab it and you run out and down the stairs waving it in the air.

“Hey, look what I got! I bet you don’t have it. I bet you haven’t even heard of the book and its author.”

Pardon my exaggerated reaction to this book. But how else do you react to the discovery of a 1950’s hardback first edition of a forgotten nonfiction that tells the story of the Ghost Squad, a secret operation undertaken by Scotland Yard to flush out London’s underworld?

Reconstruction of a chapter episode.
This actually happened. Gosling was Detective Sergeant when the Yard chose him as one of the four phantom detectives on the Ghost Squad, which began work on January 1, 1946. This is his story told in first person.

And this is what the front inside of my pictorial book jacket says:

“(Gosling) was one of the four top C.I.D. men chosen from London’s 1,200 detectives to be enrolled into the Ghost Squad, and he remained with it throughout the four years it was operational. In that time more than 1,000 men and women were arrested and over half a million pounds worth of stolen property was recovered. But none of the phantom detectives responsible for this clean-up of London’s underworld were appeared in court nor were their identities ever disclosed. The Ghost Squad worked undercover to catch the biggest crooks in London who were too clever to be caught by orthodox methods.

“It was a battle of wits between the “ghosts” and the criminals; cunning was matched against cunning and the stealthy encroachment of the “unseen force” into the deepest haunts of crime struck terror among the master-minds of the underworld.”

The four-year long secret operation was a success. John Gosling retired in 1956 with the rank of Detective Superintendent.

The book inspired the crime drama series, Ghost Squad (also known as G.S.5), which ran on ATV between 1961 and 1964.

Now on to chapter two of The Ghost Squad, which Gosling thought was
a revolutionary idea at the time because, among other things, “Crooks are our enemies and the best of them will try to outwit you. If you don't learn how to handle a crook he'll soon learn to hand you—and then the tail is wagging the dog.

Friday, August 5, 2016

Drabble #7: A story in 100 words

She took my hands in hers and said, “I love you but I can’t go on with you...anymore.”

“Who is he? Anyone I know?”

She shook her head.

“Why now? Why after...all these years?”

“I am tired of us, tired of our marriage. I want more out of life.”

“Can we have one last drink?” I said resignedly.

She nodded.

I handed her glass to her and kissed her. I sipped my drink and waited for the cyanide to kick in. I wanted out. Lord, make it painless.

Note: For previous Drabbles, click here.

Monday, August 1, 2016

The Intern, 2015

My password to Tuesday's Overlooked Films, Audio & Video over at Todd Mason’s blog Sweet Freedom.

Robert De Niro is 72, robust, and still making films. Sometimes four to six flicks a year. The Raging Bull star is probably the busiest actor of his era. He made 24 of his hundred-odd films only in the past six years. I have seen less than half of the total. So I'm no authority on his body of work.

The Scorsese veteran plays a widower in at least five of his recent films, including Nancy Meyers' The Intern (2015). As I watched the family drama on cable TV Sunday evening, I recalled an article I'd read in The Independent on why De Niro making bad films was wildly depressing

Is it because there are no constructive roles for actors of his calibre and generation? Is he doing it for the money? I'm inclined to go with lack of suitably challenging roles rather than a love for the green bucks. I'm sure he has made enough. But who doesn't want more? 

Illeana Douglas, who worked with the actor on Goodfellas, Cape Fear and Guilty by Suspicion, had this to say in the UK paper: "They talk about De Niro walking through roles, just collecting the money, and I do think that’s true. I’ve heard from financiers that if you have the money De Niro will be in anything, and that he seems to just have checked out, that he knows in a way the gig is up and he’s just getting to the finish line, but I'm not sure if that’s true concerning his performances in Silver Linings Playbook for example, and even in something as benign as The Intern he brings a strange kind of authorial presence to a very lightweight movie."

I can't say if De Niro is making bad films considering that he has appeared in serious dramas, too, in recent years. Action thrillers like Stone, Killing Season, and Heist, which may not match his previously more enduring films. But I quite liked him in The Intern as opposed to his other widower-movies, Dirty Grandpa, Last Vegas, and Everybody's Fine. I have not seen Being Flynn yet.

The Intern is a lighthearted and lazy-Sunday flick in which his character Ben Whittaker, experienced, retired and 70 years, works as an intern in a Brooklyn-based e-commerce fashion startup owned by its hands-on founder and chief executive Jules Ostin (Anne Hathaway). Ben endears himself to his much younger colleagues, always willing to lend a hand, even break the law, and helps Jules cope with office pressures and repair her marriage. Jules learns to respect and value Ben’s trust and friendship, and the two bond like father and daughter. This is their film only.

De Niro is charming in a role that
“suits” him well, perhaps because he looks the part of an elderly, kind and affable gentleman and because he doesn’t say much in the film. Along the way he meets Fiona (Rene Russo), a masseuse, and rediscovers love and companionship. And you’re glad he does.

The Intern is a nice film about friendship, love and relationship. There is nothing "wildly depressing" about it. De Niro gets the film out of the way with the flick of his wrist.

Saturday, July 30, 2016

The Night is Dark from Street to Street

Ramabai C. Trikannad

A couple of years ago, I reproduced two of my late grandmother's poems Love Ageth Not and How Long? Here is another, which, in my opinion, reveals a different side to her writing. The Night is Dark from Street to Street is mildly noirish, though I'm sure she never meant it to be. She mainly wrote about families, parenting, relationships, and faith and prayer, often with a dash of humour.

Ramabai C. Trikannad, writer and poet, was inspired by the works of Agatha Christie, Peter Cheney and Erle Stanley Gardner on one hand and P.G. Wodehouse on the other. Some of her favourite authors and poets were Shaw, Wilde, Keats, and Shelley. She loved the Classics. Together, they influenced most of her simple yet lucid writing published in 1940s and 1950s, in now defunct publications. I have them all, or at least I think I do—a treasured gift from her eldest son and my uncle.

The night is dark from street to street
I grope with my hands and feel with my feet
I think longingly of my house
Awhile the empty streets I roam.

A cosy fireside, a well earned rest
A wife — an angel of the best
All these I left in heedlessness
'tis too late now to make redress.

So on I trudge the weary track
It is no use now looking back
Ah! Who's there? A step behind me
A hazy form I dimly see.

I see it stealthily advance
I vow to fight and take my chance
"Hullo!" 'tis Swami, "How do you do?"
"I have run out of tobacco too!"

Step by step we walk very fast
The tobacco shop light gleams at last.

© Ramabai C. Trikannad

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Dead Imagination

I published this short story on my blog on September 2, 2011, and felt like sharing it again. Not many read it the first time. I wrote it off the top of my head one afternoon. I hope you like it.

The young man boarded the last train out of Churchgate station and took a window seat. He looked at his watch, 12.55 am. In another five minutes he would be on his way home, way up north of Mumbai. He was alone in the first-class compartment. He pulled his rucksack close to him and looked out of the window. There was nobody on the platform either. He glanced at his watch again, almost one. He reached inside his jacket, felt the white envelope, and closed his eyes.

“Give me everything you've got. Your wallet, your watch, your phone, your bag…everything,” a gruff voice said.

The young man looked up and stared into the barrel of a crude pistol held unsteadily by a filthy looking mugger with bloodshot eyes. He reeked of cheap country liquor.

“Now!” he barked.

“Go to hell,” the young man said.

“Well then, I'm just going to have to shoot you,” the hoodlum said menacingly.

“Go ahead. You don't scare me.”

The mugger pressed the gun barrel hard into the young man’s cheek, twisted his face and rammed it against the paan-stained window grill.

“Brave but stupid, aren't you?” he mocked. “I'm going to kill you and take everything, even your pathetic life that no one gives a shit about.”

“Shoot and get it over with,” the young man croaked.

The hand behind the gun shook before firing…once, twice, thrice. The young man’s head jerked back and his face disintegrated.

The train moved out of the station.

Red nails dug into the young man’s shoulder.

“Wake up! You fell asleep over your sandwich and you spilled ketchup all over the front of your shirt,” the girl said. “You better clean up fast, the boss wants to see you.”


“Are you deaf? Didn't you hear what I just said? The boss wants to see you!”


“How the hell should I know?”

The young man stood up, brushed his shirt with paper napkins, and walked into the office of the resident editor.

“Close the door and take a seat,” the boss said. “Would you like a cup of tea?”

“No, thanks. You wanted to see me?”

“Yes, I'm afraid I have some bad news. Your services have been terminated with immediate effect. I'm sorry, kid.”

The young man came wide awake. “What? Why? Wha...wha...what did I do?” He stammered.

“I don't know, probably nothing. The board passes the sentence, I execute it,” the boss said and tossed a white envelope across the desk. “Sign one copy and hand it back. I'll give you a good recommendation. You'll be back in the newsroom in no time. Just not this one.”


© Prashant C. Trikannad, 2011

Saturday, July 23, 2016

New fiction previews: six mysteries and thrillers

I'm always curious about intriguing titles and covers of novels I read about online. They often convey little which makes them interesting. The only way to find out is to read them. And that's not always possible. I came across these six mysteries and thrillers, published recently or to be published soon, on Twitter, and thought I'd feature them here. I hope to read them someday. Have you read any of these novels?

Falling Suns by J.A. Corrigan

Falling Suns, the debut novel of short story writer J.A. Corrigan, is "a psychological thriller for fans of Belinda Bauer, Mark Edwards, Clare Mackintosh—a dark and brooding tale about the horrors that can lurk within a family."

Ex-DI Rachel’s small son is missing. Then his body is discovered. Her cousin Michael is found guilty of his murder and incarcerated in a secure psychiatric unit.

Four years later, now divorced and back in the police force, Rachel discovers that Michael is being released to a less secure step-down unit, with his freedom a likely eventuality. Unable to cope with this, she decides upon revenge, assuming a new identity to hunt him down and kill him. 

However, as she closes in on her target, her friend Jonathan, a journalist, uncovers some unnerving information about her mother and others in her family and begins to suspect that Rachel’s perception of the truth might not be as accurate as she thinks — that she might be about to murder the wrong man.

The 320-page book has been published by Accent Press (July 14, 2016) and sold by Amazon Digital Services.

The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware

The Woman in Cabin 10 by New York Times bestselling author Ruth Ware, is a suspenseful and haunting novel set at sea.


In this tightly wound, enthralling story reminiscent of Agatha Christie’s works, Lo Blacklock, a journalist who writes for a travel magazine, has just been given the assignment of a lifetime: a week on a luxury cruise with only a handful of cabins. The sky is clear, the waters calm, and the veneered, select guests jovial as the exclusive cruise ship, the Aurora, begins her voyage in the picturesque North Sea. At first, Lo’s stay is nothing but pleasant: the cabins are plush, the dinner parties are sparkling, and the guests are elegant. But as the week wears on, frigid winds whip the deck, gray skies fall, and Lo witnesses what she can only describe as a dark and terrifying nightmare: a woman being thrown overboard. The problem? All passengers remain accounted for—and so, the ship sails on as if nothing has happened, despite Lo’s desperate attempts to convey that something (or someone) has gone terribly, terribly wrong…

With surprising twists, spine-tingling turns, and a setting that proves as uncomfortably claustrophobic as it is eerily beautiful, Ruth Ware offers up another taut and intense read in The Woman in Cabin 10—one that will leave even the most sure-footed reader restlessly uneasy long after the last page is turned.

The 352-page novel has been published by Gallery/Scout Press.

The Case of the Questionable Quadruplet

Jacqueline Diamond's 101st novel The Case of the Questionable Quadruplet, a Safe Harbor Medical Mysteries Book 1, is a mystery series featuring an obstetrician who investigates deaths affecting his patients. It's a spin-off of her seventeen-book Safe Harbor Medical romance series, previously published by Harlequin.


Dr. Eric Darcy is on the trail of his patient’s killer.

The mother of triplets stuns the young obstetrician by claiming there was a fourth baby, a quadruplet stolen from her at birth years ago. Is there a deadly secret hidden in an old medical file…which has just disappeared?

When someone murders his patient, Eric believes the police in his small town are dismissing a vital clue. Then the bodies start to pile up. Never imagining his own life might be in jeopardy, the widowed doctor turns amateur sleuth, partnering with his private investigator sister-in-law. Don’t miss this fun cozy mystery with a touch of medical thriller!

Readers of USA Today bestselling novelist Jacqueline Diamond’s Safe Harbor Medical romances will love this spin-off series. Mystery fans will welcome the return to the genre by the author of Danger Music and The Eyes of a Stranger.

Diamond says, "Writing has always been my passion, and fortunately, I never run short of ideas. As a result, my one hundred published novels cover a range of genres, including Regency romance, science fiction, fantasy, romance, humor and mystery."

The 202-page is published by K. Loren Wilson and sold by Amazon Digital Services.

Child Not Found by Ray Daniel

Child Not Found by Massachusetts-based crime fiction writer Ray Daniel, is the third suspense novel in his Aloysius Tucker mystery series.


For Aloysius Tucker, taking his nine-year-old cousin Maria sledding is all about frozen toes and hot coffee in the warming house. It shouldn’t involve chasing after Maria as she’s led into a long black car by a stranger in a Bruins jacket. But by the end of the crisp December morning Maria is gone, her mother is dead, and her father?mafia don Sal?has been arrested for murder.

Sensing blood in the water, would-be successors to Sal’s criminal empire square off, agreeing on nothing but the idea that Sal’s blood relative, Tucker, needs to be eliminated. Searching for Maria through sub-zero days and nights, Tucker persists even as his relentless efforts draw him into a deadly crossfire between every power-hungry crook in Boston.

The 384-page novel has been published by Midnight Ink.

Doubt by C.E. Tobisman

Doubt is appellate attorney C.E. Tobisman's first novel in her new series featuring Caroline Auden.


Meet Caroline Auden. The closer she gets to justice, the further she gets from the law.

When Caroline Auden lands a job at a top Los Angeles law firm, she’s excited for the challenge—and grateful for the chance to put her dark past as a computer hacker behind her. Right away, her new boss asks her to find out whether a popular GMO causes healthy people to fall ill. Caroline is only supposed to dig in the trenches and report up the ladder, but her tech background and intuition take her further than planned. When she suspects a link between the death of a prominent scientist and the shadowy biotech giant, she cries foul and soon finds herself in the crosshairs. The clock is ticking and thousands of lives are on the line…including her own.

Now this rookie lawyer with a troubled past and a penchant for hacking must prove a billion-dollar company is responsible for thousands of deaths…before they come after her.

The 348-page novel is published by Thomas & Mercer (August 1, 2016) and sold by Amazon Digital Services.

Charcoal Joe by Walter Mosley

Charcoal Joe is New York-based author Walter Mosley's fourteenth novel in his Easy Rawlins series. His novel Devil in the Blue Dress was made into a film of the same name starring Denzel Washington and Don Cheadle.


Life for Easy Rawlins is surprisingly...easy. He's living off the proceeds of his last case, trying to keep out of trouble. Of course it's not going to last.

Because Easy's old friend Mouse knocks on his door. Mouse is one of the deadliest men in America. And Mouse wants a small favour. He wants Easy to help a man he says is wrongly imprisoned, a friend of Charcoal Joe.

Charcoal Joe is a mythical figure in the LA underworld—he pulls all the strings but keeps out of sight. Reluctantly, Easy agrees—he owes Mouse his life. But this is no small favour. It's going to be Easy's deadliest investigation yet. It's going to take him from the beaches of Malibu to the shadiest stretches of Sunset in a frenetic adventure through a wild and unrepentant city.

The 320-page novel is published by Weidenfeld & Nicolson and sold by Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.

Note: I have sourced the images of the authors and covers from the websites of the authors and publishers, in some cases via Google Images.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Unscheduled break

I probably won't be blogging the rest of this week as I'm recovering from viral fever, mainly throat infection and headache. It's the headache that bothers me more than the sudden bouts of coughing and feverish feeling. But nothing that rest, plenty of fluids, and the doc's medicines won't cure. I will try and utilise the break to read provided my eyes don't water. Incessant rains have brought relief from the scorching Indian summer and with it monsoon ailments too. Right now, viral fever and jaundice are in the air while malaria and dengue can't be far away. It's the same story every year. Too many people with too many bad habits. Well, you live and you don't necessarily learn.

Saturday, July 2, 2016

Drabble #6: A story in 100 words

“Where is he?” the monk asked softly.

“In the Caribbeans, Master,” the disciple bowed.

“Are you sure?”

“Yes, Master.”

“It doesn’t matter where he is, anyway. You may leave now.”

The monk closed his eyes and slipped into a trance.

At that moment, some 8,000 miles away, master criminal Billy “Sabretooth” Butcher was walking his dog on the beach when he felt a constriction in his throat and dropped dead.

The monk opened his eyes, balled his hands into fists, and hissed — “Justice!”

Note: For the previous five Drabbles, click here.

Friday, July 1, 2016

Preview: The Sign of Fear by Robert Ryan, 2016

The Sign of Fear (2016) by Robert Ryan, the London-based author, journalist, travel writer and screenwriter, is the fourth book in the Dr. John Watson at War series, where Sherlock Holmes' friend and sounding board plays detective. The previous three novels are A Study in Murder (2015), The Dead Can Wait (2014) and Dead Man's Land (2013). Many of his novels are set in World War I & II. I haven't read any of his books but every one of them sounds interesting.

© Simon & Schuster UK
Here is a synopsis of The Sign of Fear.

The skies above London hum with danger. And in the Channel enemies lie in wait...

Autumn, 1917. London is not the city that Dr John Watson and Sherlock Holmes once bestrode like giants. Terror has come from the sky and Londoners are scurrying underground in fear.

Then a twin tragedy strikes Watson. An old friend, Staff Nurse Jennings, is on a boat-ambulance torpedoed in the Channel with no survivors. And his concert-going companion, Sir Gilbert Hardy, is kidnapped.

Then comes the gruesome ransom demand, for Sir Gilbert and four others, which will involve terrible mutilation unless the demands are met.

Help comes from an unlikely source when Watson finds himself face-to-face with his old ruthless adversary, the "She Wolf" Miss Pillbody. She makes him a remarkable offer and so an unlikely partnership is formed - the enemy spy and Sherlock Holmes's faithful companion, a detective duo which will eventually uncover a shocking case of state-sponsored murder and find Watson on board a German bomber, with a crew intent on setting London ablaze. 

The book has received good ratings. Reader Keith Currie had this to say about the book at Goodreads:

© Goodreads
"This is the fourth in the Doctor Watson series and maintains the very high standard of the earlier novels. The bombing of London is the focus here, as well as a train load of migrant Chinese workers who appear to have contracted a mysterious disease. This is a much darker novel than the others, which did have their own harrowing moments. Be aware also that there are about three or four plot lines going on at the same time. I did wonder if the momentum could be maintained throughout, but the author succeeded admirably, if rather depressingly too."

Monday, June 27, 2016

Blogger Interview: Patricia Abbott

'Blogging has given me insight
into what people like to read'

© Polis Books
I remember my first acquaintance with Patti. It was towards the end of 2011. I had started visiting her blog Pattinase and reacting to her probing questions about books, films, and music. In those days I used to address her as "Ms. Abbott" out of respect, as we usually do in India. On November 5 that year, in response to my comment to her query—"What piece of music can bring you to tears?"—Patti wrote, "Just got The Mission from my library today. Please call me Patti, btw. Unless you prefer not to." Afterwards I wondered if I had offended her!

Nearly five years on, I continue to visit her eclectic blog and meet lots of interesting writers and bloggers, and read about some terrific books and films, often new to me.

Patricia Abbott needs no introduction. But it's customary to introduce a guest. She is the author of two riveting thrillers—her debut novel Concrete Angel, published in June 2015, and Shot in Detroit, released very recently. She has also written more than 100 stories in print, online, and in various anthologies, including Needle Mag, The Thrilling Detective, Plots With Guns, Spinetingler, and ThugLit. In 2009, she won a Derringer Award for her story 'My Hero.' She is also the author of two ebooks of stories—Monkey Justice and Home Invasion.

Patti, who lives in Detroit, Michigan, talks about blogging over the past ten years and her latest novel Shot in Detroit.

© Polis Books
Patti, when and why did you start blogging? What is the one thing that you like about it?
I have been blogging for ten years. I like maintaining a community with readers and writers. Facebook serves that purpose now but ten years ago it did not. And blogs, perhaps, allow a closer relationship.

Your blog is like a major railway junction where other bloggers converge to discuss books and movies before exiting or taking the next blog train. How do you feel about the popularity of your blog?
My blog was much more that ten or even five years ago. I used to get several hundred visits a day. Now more like thirty or so. But I enjoy touching base with the people who still stop by. I feel like I have more in common with them than with many of my real life friends, who often don't read fiction and especially crime fiction.

Talking about popularity, can you take us through Friday's Forgotten Books, one of your most widely read and awaited columns?
This is now a many-years project. Most of the contributors have been with me for at least half a dozen years. I originally expected it to last a month or two. But most of the writers had been doing a similar project in written form before online communication began, so they were used to writing new reviews every week.

Do you see FFB as a melting pot of book cultures and reading habits? What motivates you to host the meme almost every Friday? 
I don't know how to define it. Most of the contributors come from a love of crime fiction or westerns. I think if I bowed out, someone else would take the reins. And that might happen 

Is noted author and fellow-blogger Bill Crider the oldest contributor to Forgotten Books?
Yes, Bill contributed a review the first week and every week since. Pretty amazing, right? I was shocked the second week when he did a second one. I never expected repeats!

You often pose interesting questions about books, films and music. For instance, on June 15 you asked, "Why didn't you finish the last book you didn't finish?" Where do these ideas come from?
My kids have always said I should host a talk show because I love asking questions. I love hearing about what people are reading in particular and seldom spend an evening without asking people I know who read that question. I am always surprised how rarely people ask me.

You have written dozens of short stories and authored two crime novels, Concrete Angel and Shot in Detroit. How has blogging influenced your writing of serious fiction?
I think it has given me insight into what people like best in books. More from reading of their blogs than what they say on mine. And their kind reactions to my stories and flash fiction challenges gave me the courage to try to write a novel.

Can you tell us what Shot in Detroit, your latest novel, is about?
It's about a female photographer, turning forty, who is fearful of never producing important work. It's also about the city she lives in, which is going through rough times. Detroit and the photographer come together in SID when she finds a project through her mortician boyfriend -filming the young black men who are dying in the city. This turns out to be a dangerous project.

If a third book is in the works—and I'm sure it is—what can your readers expect?
I have about 40 pages. Right now I am not sure if Violet Hart (the protagonist of Shot in Detroit) has a place in this story or not. I like the idea of writing about the rebirth of Detroit, so perhaps her rebirth and theirs will come together. 

“When I started my blog in many ways I was busier—with elderly parents, a day job, a grandson to sit a few days a week. But I was not busy with so much writing. And I do think the day of the blog
is ending. People can interact more easily on Facebook.”

How do you devote your time between blogging every day, working on your writing projects, and spending time with your family?
Right now, I am half-frantic about it. I came to this at a late age and the energy fades quickly. But when I compare my life to my daughter's (author Megan Abbott), I have it easy. She is finishing her ninth book, publicising her 8th, writing a TV show with David Simon et al (The Deuce), revising two scripts of her own for HBO (Dare Me) and TNT (The Fever), and writing newspaper and magazine articles. How would you like that schedule?

Do you have a fixed time for blogging? How many hours a week do you blog?
No. And I just can't give it the time I used to. When I started my blog in many ways I was busier—with elderly parents, a day job, a grandson to sit a few days a week. But I was not busy with so much writing. And I do think the day of the blog is ending. People can interact more easily on Facebook. If I pose a question there, I get dozens of responses. On my blog, just a few.

Have you ever felt like giving up blogging and reviewing, and devoting all your time to reading books?
No. I love to read but an hour or two a day is enough. I'd be more likely to see more movies. Travel more, spend more time with friends.

Finally, Patti, how has blogging benefited you, particularly your reading and writing?
Blogging has brought me many terrific friends. Friends I have enjoyed meeting in many cases. It has given me insight into what people like to read, what characters interest them, what kind of stories work best. But most of all, I'm in for the comradeship. Friends mean an awfully lot to me.

Thank you very much, Patti.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Killing Floor by Lee Child, 1997

Opening line: I was arrested in Eno's diner. At twelve o'clock, I was eating eggs and drinking from the highway to the edge of town.

The first thing I noticed the moment I read the opening lines was Lee Child’s writing style—refreshing and freewheeling without losing the intensity of the plot. The first-person narrative is matter of fact and almost conversational. It seemed as if the English novelist, who was born Jim Grant, was sitting across from me in a roadside diner and narrating his first story about Jack Reacher, his tall and hardy protagonist.

Jack Reacher is as appealing as Lee Child’s writing, as compelling as Robert Ludlum’s Jason Bourne. Neither knows fear. Both operate with grim determination and cold efficiency, and get to the root of things no matter what. Essentially, Reacher and Bourne are survivors. But the comparison between the two clever heroes ends there, for the stories and the worlds they inhabit are very different.

In Killing Floor, the drifter and former military cop is arrested for murder shortly after he arrives in Margrave, a murky town in Georgia. A case of being at the wrong place at the wrong time. Reacher and a timid guy named Hubble, who "confesses" to the murders, are interned in a state prison where our man becomes the unintended victim of a murderous attack meant for the other.

Convinced of his innocence, the police let off Reacher, who then discovers that one of the dead men who he was accused of killing was his older brother, Joe. Reacher stays back to avenge the death of a brother he was fond of as a kid and had almost forgotten when he grew up. He and detective Finlay and police officer Roscoe, to whom he is attracted, begin a secret investigation. The case takes them through a bloody trail lined with more bodies, including that of police chief Morrison and his wife, Hubble’s disappearance, and eventually to a brilliant counterfeit operation whose billion-dollar tentacles stretch into the mayor’s office and Margrave police.

Killing Floor has received mixed reviews, some good, some bad, and some average. I thought it was a realistic and hard-hitting debut by Lee Child who plates up a decent mixture of action, including some guerrilla-style killing by the fearless Reacher, and conventional detective work. The narrative is laced with some good lines, like the one I have reproduced below. Reacher is constantly on the move and so is the narrative pace. 

“You can’t find him, can you?” I said. “You’re useless, Kliner. You’re a useless piece of shit. You think you’re some kind of a smart guy, but you can’t find Hubble. You couldn’t find your asshole if I gave you a mirror on a stick.”

Elsewhere, the book is a fascinating study in counterfeiting which, we are told, is well-nigh impossible to accomplish in America. But as Joe, a government official who was hot on the trail of the crime syndicate, and Reacher find out, it can be done—and how.

Now that I have had a glimpse into the not unpleasant world of Jack Reacher, I’m eager to see how his no-nonsense character develops. The series has attracted a lot of attention, not least because of the 2013 namesake film where Tom Cruise plays the eponymous hero. Although, frankly, it’s a role that would have suited a younger Liam Neeson better.