With a personal viewpoint, writing about the arts stops sounding like Newspeak. Here is the best gift I can give an artist—a flash of my impressions of the work as open as I can divine them, uncluttered by social and historical baggage, and free of plot-spoilers.
Photographs were taken of or from Point Richmond, California and Champaign, Illinois.
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Sara Paretsky’s BLACKLIST ©2003 could have been written today; it doesn’t seem like we’ve learned very much in nearly fifteen years. Our Islamophobia today sounds as rabid as shortly after 9/11/2001. Private Detective V.I. Warshawski is shocked by just how many freedoms Americans gave up with the Patriot Act. Several storylines start in the mid-twentieth century, when McCarthyism and segregation were rampant. Activists and writers and dancers pushed xenophobic publishers, patrons and politicians. There is a very clear distinction between the supremely wealthy and the rest of us poor souls, in the past and the present. Seems like we haven’t learned much in the last sixty or seventy years.
The book covers the evolution of forensics as a tool for crime detection in the past 200 years. Not interesting, you say? Ha! There you’d be wrong. It read like a story, with lots of exciting discoveries, complete with satisfying ending.
Brilliant, positively brilliant.
As a lover of crime fiction, it’s perfectly believable that an amateur finds herself knee deep in intrigue. In some mysteries, it’s uncanny (and unrealistic) how suddenly an amateur gets embroiled in yet another murder investigation. But, one argues, some crime must be discovered by amateurs. In real life, how would this work?
TIME’S UP ©2015 by Janey Mack stars a fabulous, feisty heroine. Maisie McGrane and her four brothers are Black Irish, first-generation Chicagoans. Her family are all cops and lawyers (including her parents). Maisie has had a life-long dream of being a cop, which is now thwarted, so, with characteristic deviousness, she becomes a meter maid, prone to mishap and misadventure.
One of the traits I envy fiction writers is their ability to tell the unfettered truth about their characters’ thoughts, the emotional interaction between characters, and their view of life. Me, I’m usually polite. I don’t often write reviews of books I dislike but this one just rang all my bells.
It’s crime fiction about five women who are in their seventies, in lazy pursuit of their individual bucket lists. Doesn’t that sound charming?
C.J. Box’s THE HIGHWAY ©2013 is a thriller about a serial killer on the highways in the mid-west US. At first I feared the story would be fem-jep and torture porn, but it turns out that C.J. Box is a gifted writer and, without travelling that path, he had my imagination anticipating the worst. Obviously a serial killer does appalling things to his victims and we fear for the safety of a couple of young women, but the on-screen violence is a swift blur.
The story is compelling. Several unanticipated events rip holes into one’s expectations for the storyline. The only part that’s serenely lovely is the scenery.
What a ride!
WRITTEN OFF ©2016 by E. J. Copperman stars a crime fiction writer, Rachel Goldman, whose protagonist jumps off the page into her life as a semi-official police presence. Naturally a huge leap of disbelief is required, but surprisingly realistic as amateur detective fiction goes—I mean if I wrote crime fiction and my hero came to life, I’d probably be thinking much of what the protagonist of this story does. Furthermore (don’tcha love sentences that start with "furthermore"), E. J. Copperman is a pseudonym of a charming writer. So one watches oneself watching the writer watching E. J. Copperman molding Rachel as she interacts with her detective who has come alive—the whole premise is nuts, right?
This is part of the series Lively Discussions on Crime Fiction. Since LinkedIn’s group search capabilities have diminished, we’ve provided this summary.
Of the many tasks before your book is published, here are a few relevant discussions for self-publishers.
To access these links, you’ll need to be a member of our FREE Crime Fiction group on LinkedIn.
If you have comments or questions, please use the Contact form (tab) at the top of the page.
From December through mid February, readers of DorothyL listserv posted their favourite books read (for the first time) during 2015 to the DorothyL list.
Our volunteer Allocator read all DL posts and forwarded relevant emails to our volunteer processors (fondly known as Indefatigable Sharpies), each of whom copied, cleaned and pasted data from those emails into an Excel spreadsheet which they then forwarded to me. I did some more data cleansing, and then sent out a cry to the list for volunteers to verify submitted data (copyright dates, titles of books and authors).