Michael Burke: Swan Dive

July 29, 2010 by  
Filed under Fiction, WritersCast

978-1929355501 – Pleasure Boat Studio/Caravel Books – paperback – $15.00 (also available as an e-book at $9.99)

This is Michael Burke’s first novel, and it’s a good one.  He is probably much better known as a sculptor and graphic artist; he is clearly an accomplished writer as well, and as with his art, there is a great deal of thought behind the manifestation he has chosen for this story.  Michael Burke is also the son of renowned philosopher and poet Kenneth Burke, which may help explain some of his accomplishments.

While I was preparing to interview Michael about his very well written and entertaining novel, I read a fascinating profile of him and his work as an artist in the Harvard Alumni Magazine, an article that in itself is well worth reading.

This is an intellectual novel, but it is never heavy handed.  The dialogue is smooth, funny, and vibrant.  The story pays homage to Leda and the Swan but that motif never gets in the way of the story, and it’s not even necessary to know any Greek mythology to enjoy the book, which unfolds naturally.  Of course we know there is a denouement coming, it’s a murder mystery after all, but there is plenty of complexity to keep us interested and engaged.

Swan Dive‘s main character, Johnny “Blue” Heron, is a modernized Dash Hammett sort of hero, smart, mouthy and alot more in need of help than he realizes.  The book has many interesting and engaging characters, an unpredictable narrative, some sex, and an overall verve and political awareness that makes clear the author is socially engaged and has something important to say about the world we live in.  You can read this book purely for fun, or as a neo-noir genre revival novel, but there’s alot more going on here for anyone who wants to delve into its many layers.

Swan Dive is a book I will recommend to mystery lovers who want a book with depth, a fast paced narrative and interesting characters.  In my discussion with author Michael Burke, we had a lively discussion about this book and how he came to write it, his background as an artist, and where he is headed as a writer (there’s another Blue Heron novel in the works).  I’m definitely looking forward to reading more of his writing.

Kelli Stanley reading from City of Dragons

May 26, 2010 by  
Filed under AuthorsVoices

978-0312-60360-1 – Hardcover – Minotaur – $24.99 (also available as an e-book at $11.99)

Writerscast is proud to present the second in our series of authors reading from their work called AuthorsVoices.   I hope you will agree that hearing these works read aloud, especially by the original authors, will add greatly to the experience of the writing and the authors’ distinct sense of their own words. With writers touring for books less frequently now, these podcasts should provide readers with an opportunity to hear some of our best contemporary authors reading  from, and sometimes performing their own works.

Kelli Stanley’s City of Dragons is a great noir mystery novel with a great woman detective main character.  The novel is set in Stanley’s meticulously recreated 1940’s era San Francisco that she plainly deeply loves.  I read this book a few months ago, thought it was terrific, and interviewed Kelli (here).  For AuthorsVoices Kelli provides an introduction to the book and does a terrific reading of Chapter 1 of her novel in full.  Note to listeners: language in this piece does include some words not allowed on broadcast radio or television.

Kelli Stanley: City of Dragons

February 21, 2010 by  
Filed under Fiction

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978-0312603601 – Hardcover – Thomas Dunne/Minotaur Books – $24.99

Reading Kelli Stanley’s City of Dragons was a pleasure from beginning to end.  I liked her incredible attention to details in the San Francisco of the 1940s setting.  I really liked her main character, the wounded private eye, Miranda Corbie.  Kelli’s love of noir fiction, and love for a great story really show.  Good fiction should be able to take you into another place and time coupling the author’s skills with your own imagination.  This book certainly succeeds in grabbing you early, and keeping your attention.  Anyone who has read and loved the great classic detective novels will feel at home with Kelli Stanley’s writing.  And she has that political edge that so many writers of the 30s and 40s brought to their work.

There’s a lot going on here.  You can feel San Francisco in the dark of pre-World War II, taste the cigarettes and booze, and feel the very real danger her characters experience, the otherness of Chinatown, and the deaths and broken lives that dot this sometimes harsh and painful cityscape.  And you can feel throughout how much heart and soul the author has put into this book.  It’s a pleasure to read, and has a story that won’t let go.  Lots of fun overall, and City of Dragons works on many levels, so it will satisfy readers looking for entertainment or something with a bit more depth as well.

Kelli loves her work and loves to talk about it too, so we had a great conversation.  This is a writer with a great future and I am very much looking forward to her next book.  I’m also hoping to get her to contribute a reading from this novel to Writerscast in the near future.  Kelli’s own website is worth a visit as well.  City of Dragons is available as an e-book in various formats, and in digital audio as well.

Summer Brenner: I-5, A Novel of Crime, Transport, and Sex

December 24, 2009 by  
Filed under Fiction

detail_93_i5frtcover300978-1-60486-019-1 – Paperback – PM Press – $15.95

This is a slim novel that packs a pretty powerful punch.  Summer Brenner was best known to me as a poet, but it turns out she has been writing fiction for quite some time.  She has a political interest, as this novel demonstrates, but it is not a tract.  It’s a sensitive portrayal of an Eastern European woman who has been tricked into coming to America, where she has been enslaved in a money for sex ring that makes a business out of the correlation between the desires of women to escape the misery of their lives and men who are willing to pay for sex of all kinds with women, whose real lives they care nothing about.

As the story of I-5 unfolds, Anya, the main character, is traveling the interstate corridor up central California from Los Angeles to Oakland; adventures ensue, some of them strange, some of them desperate, all of them painful and sad.  Still, Brenner’s characters matter, she is sympathetic to all of them as human beings, even the worst exploiters in the crew.  That makes this novel much more than a book about sex, money, power and violence; in Brenner’s hands, these characters transcend their typologies to become real people trapped in their individual gulags.  She writes visually, so that with a relatively few words, we can see what she wants us to see, the places her characters inhabit, and even their interior worlds.  It’s gut wrenching book, but our faith in the ability of people to overcome the obstacles between themselves and their humanity is never lost.

This is really a terrific book; yes, the cover makes it look like a trashy paperback from the 50s, but done in a modern enough way that there is no mistaking it for anything exploitative.  I-5 is a hardboiled story, and it is as noir as any book you will read, but it’s a transformative experience to read and one that should not be missed.  In my interview with Summer, we talked quite a bit about the how she came to write this book, and many of the issues of sexual slavery in America and worldwide today.  She expresses a deep emotional connection with the characters in her novel, based on her own experiences as a woman.  Her abilities to imagine her characters and their stories is remarkable.  Summer Brenner is a writer more people should know, and one who important things to say.

Tony Abbott-The Postcard-a Mystery within a Mystery-Pt 2

March 21, 2009 by  
Filed under Children's Authors, Fiction

33331868978-0316011723 (Hardcover)
Little Brown Young Readers, $15.99
(paperback is due out in May 2009)

Writerscast host David Wilk interviews Tony Abbott, the author of over 60 books for young readers, including the extremely popular Droon series, which has sold over 4.5 million books, and the Golden Kite winner Firegirl.

This is part two of Wilk and Abbott’s in depth and wide ranging conversation about books and writing. Wilk and Abbott talk extensively about Tony’s latest book, The Postcard , an exciting and well written mystery set in Florida in the sixties that is based to a great extent on Tony’s experiences visiting there as a child. They also talk about some of Abbott’s many other books and how his newest projects are developing. Abbott’s many fans will find this a great opportunity to get to know him as a writer and person. Part One of their conversation was posted earlier in March 2009.

Tony Abbott – The Postcard – a Mystery within a Mystery

March 11, 2009 by  
Filed under Children's Authors, Fiction

33331868978-0316011723 (Hardcover)
Little Brown Young Readers, $15.99
(paperback is due out in May 2009)

Writerscast host David Wilk interviews Tony Abbott, the author of over 60 books for young readers, including the extremely popular Droon series, which has sold over 4.5 million books, and the Golden Kite winner Firegirl.

This is part one of Wilk and Abbott’s in depth and wide ranging conversation about books and writing. Abbott talks about what he did before he became a full time writer and discusses in detail his writing methods and how he develops ideas that turn into books. Wilk and Abbott talk extensively about Tony’s latest book, The Postcard , an exciting and well written mystery set in Florida in the sixties that is based to a great extent on Tony’s experiences visiting there as a child. Abbott’s many fans will find this a great opportunity to get to know him as a writer and person. Part Two of their conversation will be posted soon.