Southern Scotch

Southern Scotch

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Rounding Up the Indie Big Dogs: August 2012

Good morning. Today's roundup contains four names that nobody owning a Kindle should miss.

  1. Russell Blake. RB's output is prodigious: a novel every 6-8 weeks. To the purists who object, Frederick Faust (aka Max Brand) wrote 500 novels and as many short stories—for a total output of some 30 million words. And Alexander Dumas wouldn't  have had any issues with RB's breakneck schedule. NIGHT OF THE ASSASSIN is a recent prequel to Blake's popular Assassin series. And it's a fine place to begin because in less able hands it might have been a bit of fluff: an episodic novel showing the genesis of the assassin whose name will be El Rey. The difference in Blake's style can often be seen at a glance. Compared to the Patterson school of 3-line paragraphs and 10-word sentences, his moves are anaconda-like, enveloping a reader in gravitas and klout: a paragraph of 20 lines, an 80-syllable sentence, a lonnnng first chapter setting up the first hit of the book and then pulling it off in the literary equivalent of a DePalma tracking shot. Flash back to 25 years ago...then 16 years ago...etc. Two fab tricks enable Blake to pull off a series of flash backs, which—as we all know—are forbidden. First, since the book is a Prequel and written episodically, the 'flashes' become history: self-contained and yet linked bits in a mosaic. Second, each episode takes the boy, then the young man, closer to his dream of becoming El Rey—and our better understanding how he acquired this dream. And, oh yeah: RB's a stone killer with action.
  2. Michael Prescott. STEALING FACES was trad-pubbed in 1999, when Prescott was represented by Jane Dystel. Not long afterwards, though he'd published a number of novels and received some terrific reviews, his numbers failed to satisfy the new masters of the game. So Prescott was sent to The Desert, where other fallen gladiators licked their wounds and cursed their fates. But, luckily for all of us, Prescott wasn't finished yet. Today MP is one of the elite leaders of the indie revolution—and one of USA Today's favorite ebook success stories. This book offers a sizzling intro to an exceptional talent. Prescott raises expectations artfully, then bounces them hard off the walls. We begin, believing we've got yet another simple take on THE DEADLIEST PREY, a young woman fleeing a rifle-wielding pyscho who shoots her once, then shoots her twice...and then peels off her face. But wait. Now the killer in turn's being hunted by—eh? A woman who's a murderer too and is connected in some way? Once Prescott has our attention with the pulp-style opening, the style becomes more elegant, more seductive, and the tale takes delightful turns into police procedural, psychological study and even budding love story. No more spoilers. Read and love this novel—and hang on to your faces.
  3. John A. A. Logan. Once upon a time, an acclaimed Scottish short story writer wrote four novels with high hopes...and watched decades pass while he found himself crushed under the weight of rejection. He emerged from exile with an astonishing novel called THE SURVIVAL OF THOMAS FORD. Now, day by day, the good news spreads: When an Artistic director goes slumming with a commercial thriller, the result is Martin Scorcese's CAPE FEAR...but when a Literary writer produces a thriller with love and respect, the result is THOMAS FORD. The engine of the novel is meticulously crafted: Ford, and his wife are run off the road by a joyriding punk and his pal. Ford's wife dies and he spends six-odd weeks in a coma. While he sleeps, bad trouble brews: the bird-faced punk, Jimmy McCallum, and his burly friend Robert fear that Ford may remember their faces. Jimmy has extra good reason to fear: his father's a violent, dangerous man and word of this could harm da's business...When the boys begin to scope Ford out, the book's engine proves to run on a very high octane indeed. But nothing plays out as we'd thought. Thomas Ford isn't Bronson or Eastwood. The boys are not pure evil. Violence comes as expected, and yet...Meanwhile, Logan weaves a spell of lovely prose and carefully orchestrated images that we'll be thinking of long past The End.
  4. David Cranmer (Edward Grainger). THE ADVENTURES OF CASH LARAMIE AND GIDEON MILES, VOL. 1. This collection of seven short stories had me, as they say, from Hello. They're self-contained yet subtly linked—with passing references to previous events—and they play out like episodes in a classic TV western of only 25 minutes: no time to waste, move right along, suggest the currents underneath, let readers fill in the spaces between. The stories are, in fact, adventures, rather than slices of life. But a single adventure in each forms the core without any padding for length: a boyish killer whom Cash is transporting shows what he is made of...Cash needs to find a way quickly to safeguard a brutalized girl...Cash and Gideon are too slow in spotting mischief in a boneyard...This author's not cheap with the action, be sure: When it comes, come it does and it's bloody and quick. At the same time, however, no adventure enrich the characters of its two engaging leads: Cash, raised by Indians, and his black partner Gideon. Cranmer deserves special praise for his handling of time and dialogue. The details are sparse but telling: a 'lucifer' is used to light a cheroot, not a match...'the only brick and wood building at the end of the street'...a Mackinaw jacket...Finally, Cranmer's devised a simple, slightly formal style that reminds us where and when we are without beating us over the head: 'Cash cleared leather first and opened a dark hole in the rapscallion's forehead/' I loved this book and you will too.  


  1. Seconding the endorsement for THE SURVIVAL OF THOMAS FORD. A really terrific book by an amazingly talented author.

  2. I am so glad you liked the collection and many thanks for taking the time to review, Reb.

    For those interested we have a Vol. 2, plus Miles to Little Ridge, Manhunter's Mountain, and Bullets for a Ballot. All $0.99.

  3. Thomas Ford, ditto. And I will be buying Nobility, too.

  4. Glad you're a Ford fan, Alne. And I hope you like Nobility. Cheers.


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