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REPRISE is now available for the Kindle.

Reprise is now available for your Kindle.

Later on, I'm hoping to enroll it in the KDP select program where it's a free download for the first five days, but right now it's priced at 99 cents. All I ask is that you bug every breathing person you know to go out and buy as many digital copies of "Reprise" as they can, that you become my walking advertisement, neglecting meals and showers for days in a row just to convince people to buy my work. (In reality, just you sharing a link to its amazon page on your Facebook would make me overwhelmingly happy enough - we can talk about the Leasure consumer zombie syndrome later).

I really do hope you enjoy this work.


What if your family vanished without a trace?

Len Rossdale is a rock star coping with the price of new found fame.

During a celebrity’s costume party held on October 31st of 1992, Len's wife Olivia, along with their newborn child Tanya, disappears. All of the authorities hired to trace the two come back empty-handed. For the next twenty years, the aging icon Len leads a remote life, scarred by the traumatic loss. His band has dissolved and gone their separate ways.

However, the second biggest change in his life is about to happen. Len meets another woman named Rachel. Len finds himself falling in love with this stranger. What he does not know is that she possesses a dark secret, one which will leave him scarred forever...and she may also contain information about the family he thought he would never see again.

There comes a point in your life as a reader where you begin to realize that, regardless of one's own thoughts on a particular book, you develop a sense of when you're holding a true classic in your hands versus something that is merely standard or entertaining or aligned with your own personal preferences.

'Beautiful Ruins' conjures up that very feeling. It is mixed with lyrical imagery, fully realized characters, exotic settings such as the Coast of Italy and Old Hollywood, and is interspersed with eqaul parts funny diatribes and tragic musings. It explores what all of great literature should, which is the reality of the human condition. Quote: "What person who has enjoyed life could possibly think one is enough? Who could live even a day and not feel the sweet ache of regret?"

Is it a little too self conciously literary? An argument could be made. It brings to my mind the historical works of Gore Vidal and the effortless prose of Erskine Caldwell.

At one point, Walter describes the aesthetic of some of his favorite writers: "Hemingway's stoic detachment, Dos Passos' ironic tragedies, Celine's absurd black hearted satires." This summarizes what Jess Walter's overall goal on writing may be.

This book deals with serious issues without bombarding the reader with morose spectacle. Exemplary quotes:

"People can handle an unjust world; it's when the world becomes arbitrary and inexplicable that order breaks down."

"He didn't think of Heaven as a smiling place. If mortal sinners went to Hell and venal sinners like himself went to Purgatory, then Heaven had to be full of no one but saints, priests, nuns, and baptized babies who died before they had a chance to do anything wrong."

"Our names are writ in water anyway, as Keats said, so what's it bloody matter?"

"Italy (is) a great epic poem, Britain a thick novel, America a brash motion picture in technicolor."

"Cowards die many times before their death. The valiant never taste of death but once."

Beautiful ruins encapsulates people who are successful in the culture of LA but miserable in their personal lives, "failed writers but successful drunks." As a Lake Tahoe local for the past sixteen years, I found one of the main protagonists excerpt from a screenplay about the Donner Party (simply titled Donner!) quite amusing.

A scene that stood out to me is when a male character visits a woman that he loved as a young man who has become a prostitute. The dark humor and tragic, brutal way in which his naivete towards her falls apart is rendered with an incredible craftsmen's outlook.

I think that anyone who enjoys literary works, historical fiction, and stories which reflect the richness and sadness of life should read Jess Walter's masterpiece.

Book review: The Cut by George Pelecanos.

Pelecanos. The name is synonymous with legend, inspiration, influence, aspiration, at least to me and many other would be writers of crime. The reasons as to why are pretty simple. Dialogue smoother than silk, heartfelt character development, realistic action sequences, and well researched facts about the world of criminal investigation.

Since George Pelecanos has that rare gift of creating unique protagonists unlike any other, he infuses them with a sense of practicality and distinctive poetic rationalism.

How to describe Spero Lucas, the heart of the novel "The Cut." A Marine who served in Iraq, whose past I wish was just a bit more detailed (despite the amazing ending paragraphs). I think his character is best summarized by this quote from The Cut:

“He felt, somewhat, as he had upon his return to the States: no duties, no mission, no cause.”

Lucas is a man who likes to keep busy, much like his prolific and multi-talented creator. I love "The Cuts" simple, Elmore Leonard inspired sentence structure.

"Right As Rain" would be in my top books of all time.

"The Cut" doesn't quite level up to that prior book I just mentioned, in my opinion, but then again, most books don't. Nevertheless, it's still an impressive work of contemporary crime fiction.

Anyone who has read this writers work knows that it is not a stretch to call him the most natural living writer of cultural obsession within dialogue found in Noir fiction since Tarantino. Reading books, watching movies, listening to music with a decent glass of bourbon in your hand - the characters of Pelecanos appreciate the small stuff.

I hate Michael Connelly in the best way possible. By that, I simply mean he makes writing a crime novel look so damn easy. His prose is always smooth, his characters always interesting. As a mystery writer, it's easy to read him and say, 'Oh, I could do that.' Until the plot gets far more complex, the characters' added layers of depth are revealed, and the atmosphere of LA at sundown is fleshed out.

I think most modern crime readers can easily agree upon the idea that Connelly has earned his place among the legends he admired when he started writing, notably Chandler and Hammett (who he still references in his works in various subtle ways, such as naming a street after one of them in this very novel).

A surprising amount of the novel deals with Bosch's relationship with his 16 year old daughter - a premise that feels as if it could be boring, and yet it parallels the kind of double life police lead. Is that sort of contrast new to the genre? Of course not. Does it still feel relevant in Connelly's hands, despite how the home scenes often have a striking resemblance to John Updike at various intervals? Definitely.

I am fairly confident Connelly has an international readership, and yet Bosch feels like a representative of the bleaker side of California. 'The Black Box' opens up with a riveting description of the state of LA in the midst of the Rodney King controversy. He brings the period alive without loquacious indulgence, which can be mistaken for simplicity.

Personally, I enjoyed 'A Darkness More Than Night' much more, but no one can dethrone Connelly from his place in commercial west coast crime writing.

Finally finished the non fiction essay collection 'I Wear The Black Hat' by Chuck Klosterman.
It's nowhere near the level of cultural importance and inventiveness as 'Fargo Rock City,' although to say that it's without merit would be a vast understatement. I understand that debut came out a very long time ago, and every author's voice changes over time, and 'Black Hat' deals with different subject matter entirely. Also, I was so in love with 'Fargo Rock City' as a whole that comparing any collection to it (with the exception of David Foster Wallace's 'A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again') is bound to end with me (pun intended) villifying the other, even if it's by the same author.
I also have to keep in mind that just because the reading experience was not fully enjoyable for me does not mean others will not think of it as a truly remarkable piece containing several ideas which are revolutionary tangents of food for thought. The reason is maybe because I'm a crime writer, and I've studied most of the scandals and 'villians' that Klosterman deals with in this book, so a lot of it felt like I was just reading the obvious. As pretentious as it sounds on my part, I could not help but read the non fiction essay collection and think 'yes, that was fascinating, but I already knew about it.' Typically, Klosterman deals with elements everybody is already well aware of, and reinvigatorates it with his own brand of philosophical analysis. That theme is still prevelant here, and yet so much of it seemed to fall flat to me. In a sense, a Klosterman collection dealing strictly with villians should be the greatest amplification of his style to exist yet. The reason is because he's known for taking very low culture and treating it, from a sensible and intellectual stand point, as if it is high art in need of discussion, so therefore. him putting the worst type of people under the microscope really should have felt as if he was writing with liquid gold. Yet it didn't.
Yes, Chuck Klosterman grapples with villians, and every in and out involving them - their main weaknesses, what defines them, what the worst part about them truly is outside of the mainstream events defining them in the modern psyche. Goetz, Simpson, Clinton, Andrew Dice Clay, and many others are all covered. The way he deals with Hitler is clever and air tight. In my opinion, his Sartre like way of handling ethical responsibility when talking about the supposed 'heirarchy' of Penn State in relation to the Sandusky horrors was a true stand out, as far as making me assess that story on a much more in depth level. Klosterman claims that the worst type of villian is one who knows when what he or she is about to do is wrong, but doesn't care. This is a reoccurring sentiment which will help one look at modern events of villiany in a new way.
This book is worth the read. Yet I would say to expect a light piece of entertainment, as opposed to a psychological plumbing of the darkest hearts of man.
“A man’s ghoulish shadow is not the man.” -Night Film
You find yourself reading some novels that you can relate to. As if the author has the exact same background as you, with precisely the same experiences. Other times you read a novelist who you know has a completely separate type of existence, one you have never stepped inside of in any way, and while that fact is prevalent with each page you read of the writer, it does not stop you from enjoying the craft of the work. Such is my feeling towards the new literary thriller by Marisha Pessl.
Understand, I have been a fan of Pessl since her first book ‘Special Topics in Calamity Physics’ came out. I bought a paperback copy of it and began reading interviews with the writer on-line. In one of the Q & A’s, she gave out a few links for struggling writers, a website that listed various agents and publishers who were accepting submissions. Truth be told, if it had not been for that interview (which I read when I was just out of High School), I may not have begun the submission process quite so early in my life. So understand, in that sort of maybe small way, she has had an influence and impact on me, personally.
And who would have thought we fans would have to wait so long for a second book from this talented novelist?
Over the years, I kept waiting on any kind of information about what the next Pessl book would be. She had stated that it was going to be a thriller along the lines of Edgar Allen Poe, which intrigued me. There were even hints that it was going to deal with cinema more so than classic works. This all turned out to be true, of course.
Night Film is, on the surface, not the type of mystery writing I typically seek out. I prefer loners in my fiction, whereas in this book, the protagonist, Scott McGrath, eventually, reluctantly gets help from two other people - Nora and Hopper. My favorite scenes are the ones where he is by himself.
I also enjoy a darkness that is so authentic that it leaves you shaking. Other reviews have pointed out that Night Film doesn’t really deliver a fully disturbing experience, which many chapters technically promise to do. What people overlook is that while Pessl does not resort to blatantly graphic imagery in order to shock readers (a la a film such as 8MM), what she does well is to create a very gruesome tone more than anything else, one that I would argue is definitely credible.
The two scenes that struck me as being the most undeniably masterful are ones I am sure other readers of the book will have to agree were impressive, to say the least. The oubliette nightclub scene was staggeringly well done, and the wanderings on abandoned film sets at The Peak estate were awe-inspiring, some of the best descriptions I‘ve read of anything in any recent novel. I am an infamous sucker for gothic atmosphere, and this book delivers that on many levels.
The flaws?
Considering this is a monolithic work of passion and purpose, it is only natural that there are going to be problems. All can be forgiven, considering my overall evaluation of ‘Night Film’ is that it’s an immensely well done book. I dreaded reading the ending because I did not want it to end. The complexity of the plot rivals even the grand master of mystery, Ellroy, without ever making the reader feel lost. I cannot stress how much I enjoyed it.
However, some issues I had/and or some issues others may have already pointed out:
1). For the record, I don’t like that character Hopper. I know I may be in the minority as far as that goes, but I just feel the need to say that. The scene where he’s introduced, the dialogue between him and McGrath, are actually perfectly entertaining segments. Everything after that, well, let’s just say I found him to be irritating, and, as much as I hate to say it, unrealistic. The way McGrath describes Hopper when he first meets him in the café also felt improbable.
2). Some people may not enjoy the long winding monologues, ones in which a lot of the characters sound the same. This personally did not take away from my enjoyment of Night Film, the same way that characters talking in length within Richard Linklater’s movies do not ruin them for me. However, some readers may not find it to be their cup of whiskey.
3). A trivial note. Some people found the use of italics a bit too much. I personally did not care, although I can see why some may be peeved by too much emphasis.
4). The final “meeting,” which I am not going to spoil, may strike some as anti-climactic. However, there’s a second interpretation of it as well - sometimes mystery is the key ingredient. In Night Film, mystery and unanswered questions are everything. Maybe we don’t want to know what’s inside the briefcase in Pulp Fiction. Maybe I don’t have to see the head of Gwyneth Paltrow in that box to know Pitt’s characters pain in that ending scene in ‘Seven.‘ Maybe I don’t particularly care to know everything about Cordova. I like him being a presence more than a person.  Here’s is a quote possibly expressing something similar from the book: “Secrets - even in hardened criminals, they were just air pockets lodged under debris at the bottom of an ocean.”
The multi media bridge that the book is trying to build is not unheard of, though it’s a necessary experiment for our modern times, with the state of the book industry being what it is. One can take it or leave it - the links, the videos on-line, et cetera - and still enjoy the story for what it is, which is an satisfying tale that forces you to keep the pages turning, the same way a film projector’s shutter helps perpetuate a cycle of light and darkness.
Read Harlan Cobens novel "No Second Chance." On one hand I appreciate the mans work, on the other I can see why so many crime novelists think his voice isn't gritty or cynical enough. I see the pastiche of every other major writer in the genre, and it works. What makes Coben distinct is his obsession with loss and missing people - a theme that I appreciate but also see the flaw in, as its Cobens way of dealing with death in a very candy coated way. Yet that doesn't take away entirely from his talent. The unexpected plot turns and interesting characters are what has made him a millionaire writer, most likely. I prefer the scenes that Coben writes from the perspective of characters who are left alone to ponder the circumstances of their dilemma. He has a gift for internal dialogue that I wish he had focused more on in this book.


“The United States has a strip-mall sameness about it now. It's easy to criticize that--I often do--but maybe the appeal is that we all like what we already know. We claim to embrace change. But in the end, especially in these times, what truly draws us is the familiar.”

Quote also, in no uncertain terms, summarizes Cobens aesthetic.

Update on my book.

My book 'Reprise' has been years in the making now. I've been editing it with an iron fist in regards to getting rid of material that I deemed embarrassing or mediocre (and trust me, the first draft had plenty of embarrassing and mediocre scenes, sentences, moments, et cetera, and for that I apologize to any of my friends on here who were kind enough to subject themselves to that awful amateur version). I've already cut four or five chapters, basically getting rid of fifteen thousand words at the bare minimum. At the same time, I feel it has some of my strongest work, which is why I'm even bothering trying to shape it up. I think that it should be on the Kindle by the end of this month. Or by Halloween.

Book Review: The Prisoner of Heaven.

Just finished reading Carlos Ruiz Zafon's latest work, "The Prisoner of Heaven."

The good thing about it is that it's central focus is the character David Martin, the protagonist of Zafons previous novel, "The Angels Game." Anyone who complains about The Angels Game having a non sensical ending (something I never agreed with) will have their questions answered with "The Prisoner of Heaven."

The bad things about it?

Everything else.

Do not get me wrong. Prisoner is a fine novel, if Zafons prior two works weren't such stunning examples of modern monumental cornerstones of craft. It is a good novel, but not a good Zafon novel.

Maybe it's because I'm biased. The Shadow of The Wind and The Angels Game were immersive works of ridiculously high quality mystery fiction, ones rarely, if ever, equaled since. Zafon is high up among my favorite living writers because of his vast array of abilities and the alluring, gothic world he created.

Zafon is entitled to have written a book that falls short of his standards at this point after his literary accomplishments, but is he excused for having written a slim novel that reads like a parody of his style? I've seen that trend in authors who get too comfortable in their careers (a la, Pat Conroys work "South of Broad").

"Prisoner" was such a let down on a major level. Zafons epic vision of Barcelona isn't as fleshed out as the lush city is in his two other major works, mainly because the heart of it is a prison story - a setting that makes sense when considering the social and political reality of the historic settings, but an almost obscene choice of locale for a masterful storyteller such as Zafon, who can make an insane asylum, a street corner, and an ivory tower seem striking within a matter of one short chapter. I get it - claustrophobia has always been a theme within his material. Yet never has it been as dominant as it is here.

"The Prisoner of Heaven" feels like a rushed job on a weekend from the second best selling author in Spain.

Don't get me wrong. Fermin is an amusing character as always, even if the humor seems forced every once and a while. The ending is intriguing.

I will read the next Zafon novel, of course. I just hope he gets back into classic shape with the broad canvas which myself and many others prefer to see him use.