Good morning. And it is a fine one for those of us who love to read and who don't feel we have to pay $25-$30for fiction force-fed down our throats by the teetering Trad Pub Cabal. For those who salute the Ebook Revolution, our hearts are high as we set out. In our hands, our treasured weapons: the beloved ebook readers that transport us today to the future...where the real cream at last is beginning to rise in an entirely new breed of writers.
These writers are all proud members of what I call Glad School: veteran gladiators of the Trad Pub wars...who've struck out on their own and won their independence. No conventioneering, no toadying to agents, no caving in to established conventions, no fear of breaking Sacred Rules. The three writers I've selected for the opening roundup couldn't be more different. But the one thing they all have common makes for some great news indeed:
They have nothing but contempt for the sort of agent who would say, as one did say to me: 'I'm sorry, but I can't read your prose and watch TV at the same time.' These three writers write for readers who, they know, do love to read. And each is completely committed to delivering the ultimate bang for your bucks, whatever Sacred Rules he may be required to break.
Final note before the reviews: I know none of these good Glads. None has asked me to review his book. I have no professional debts to repay. Their style and behavior on Twitter impressed me, that's all I can say. I checked them out on Amazon. And, brothers and sisters, I dug what I saw. That said, the first Big Dog Mini-Reviews. All are available on Amazon Kindle.
- Vigilante by Claude Bouchard. The first in a series of thrillers featuring Montreal detective Dave McCall and computer whiz Chris Barry offers a terrific spin on Death Wish in an exotic setting. Time: 1996. A crafty, savage killer is cleansing Canadian streets in cruel ways...then, of course, feeding the details to his favorite reporter. That central conceit dates back to Jack the Ripper. But Bouchard has his dark fun with it, along with every other staple of the serial killer genre. In fact, CB plays a shell game worthy of Ira Levin (no slouch at the fine art of bloody surprise, as you'll know if you've ever seen Death Trap or read A Kiss Before Dying). CB plays so suavely with his list of suspects, and he is so bloody smoooooth in style as he bounces our heads off the walls, that I can't help but think of him as the Indie Cary Grant. And, guess what, he starts off with a stick in the eye of our old friend, Miss Grundy: an opening flashback that's very well done and gets the tale's engine in gear. Bravo, CB, you smoothie.
- Blacklisted by Luke Romyn. Okay, if Claude is Cary Grant, then Luke Romyn must be Sly Stallone. The Dirty Dozen meets The Expendables meets Inglorious Basterds here when a team of criminal 'scum' is assembled, then set off on not just one but a string of suicide assignments. The hero, Mike Swanson, begins as a brutalized boy and goes on to lose two beloved mentors before becoming a vigilante...then a member of the team. His early training as a boxer and then bouncer, are especially well done—and extra-interesting because of Romyn's own background in security and bouncing. Actually, Romyn's rugged photo confirm his author creds. And his defiant starting note hint at his own brutalization by the Trad Pub Cabal. In the hands of a less able writer, this would have been an okay actioner. But this baby rises above that...and how. This is my world, Romyn says, and there's no take it or leave it—you'll take it. Miss Grundy takes more sticks than one: from an ongoing opening flashback the book couldn't live without...to the completely convincing romance between two serial killers. Romyn's the real deal for action. Go, Sly!
- The Fall of Billy Hitchings by Kirkus MacGowan. I was put off from this novel, at first, because it sounded like YA. But when one critic called it a cross between Indiana Jones and Jason Bourne, my interest grew.. A sneak peek at the opening pages on Amazon inspired me to order it. And I'm hear to tell you I'm glad that I did. Forget YA. Forget Bourne and Indiana Jones. Know this: Investigator John Reeves needs to recover three plates, whose powers he still hasn't guessed...Someone else wants the plates...Billy, a troubled teen, is the only one able to tap the plates' power—sometimes with disastrous results. I've compared KM to actor George Kennedy because his style reminds me of that not always gentle giant: George was often a lovable figure unaware of his real strength—and, just so, KM may draw you into a warm scene with a hug...then squeeze the life right out of you. Sticks in the eyes of Miss Grundy? You bet! KM, defiantly, refused to write his fable in clear-cut black and white. Without stinting on the action, he always takes the needed time to plumb the moral/emotional depths.
Next month: three more Big Dogs for your indie groove!