Monday, May 19, 2014

Book Review: Wolverine Bros. Freight and Storage

Wolverine Bros. Freight & Storage: A Conway Sax MysteryWolverine Bros. Freight & Storage: A Conway Sax Mystery by Steve Ulfelder
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Conway Sax is a complex character, and this book shows him at his brutal best.

When his friend and fellow barnburner, Eudora Spoon, asks Conway Sax to go to California and rescue her son, he can't say no. The book opens with a scene worthy of Richard Stark's Parker series--and includes Sax hefting a buck-naked Kenny over his shoulder and walking out of a gang hideout.

This is the fourth book in the series, and in my opinion, the most straightforward, enjoyable read. The first, Purgatory Chasm, was a heartbreaker. But I like Sax better now that he's come to terms with his core failures as a human. He sucks at relationships, but he's great at breaking heads.

As with his previous books, this author's writing has a throwback feel reminiscent of the best Noir writers of the fifties and sixties. This character is old school; a retired race car driver and recovering alcoholic with a destructive streak.

I dare you to read the first page and stop. If you're like me, you'll look up four hours later and wonder what happened to your afternoon.

Cheers...and Happy Reading!

T.D. Hart

View all my reviews

Monday, May 5, 2014

Baton Blog Hop

My plotting friend and partner-in-mischief, Rhenna Morgan, tapped me for what she calls a Baton Blog Hop: basically a game of tag for writers. The idea is to answer four questions about your writing, then tag another fool author to do the same.

But first you need to know about Rhenna Morgan and why you need to go--right this minute--to her blog and bookmark it as a must-read.

The first time I met Rhenna, she was fresh off a wild night with Nickelback. Since I have an honest-to-God picture of me with the band (fifteen seconds of ecstasy that cost more than I'll ever admit) I was sure I'd met a kindred spirit.

I'm certain the first words out of her mouth were irreverent and funny, though I don't recall what they were. I do remember hearing about the fantasy she was writing (her first) and thinking, "Damn, I wish my first story had been that good."

Turns out I have very good taste. Last week, Rhenna sold UNEXPECTED EDEN to a major freaking publisher--and they want to see the next two in the series. So if you're into fantasy with a hot streak of romance (you'll need a cigarette afterward, believe me) watch for the release of UNEXPECTED EDEN in December.

Now for the questions:

What am I working on?

Right now I'm finishing revisions (for the third time? Fourth?) on a Noir Mystery about a San Diego homicide detective who investigates the murder of a rock star she had a crush on as a teenager. Seventeen years ago my character's sister disappeared from a crowded beach, and the singer's voice was literally ringing through her speakers the moment she realized her sister was gone.

The working title is LIFE FOR A LIFE.

Next up is a thriller about a young man whose father died in prison after embezzling forty million dollars from the mob. The FBI thinks my character has the money. So does the mob...and they want it back.

How does my work differ from others in its genre?

Noir is making a comeback and there are some amazing writers out there right now. But if I had to point out differences, I'd say my work focuses on character more than some.

When I'm planning a story I imagine the protagonist first--who he is at his core, what emotional baggage he carries--then plunk him down in a terrible situation and see what happens.

That's why I loved HBO's TRUE DETECTIVE. Those guys would be interesting no matter what crime they solved.

Why do I write what I do?

Noir is all about redemption. Take the film Casablanca. Rick is a selfish, fucked-up drunk who gives up the only woman he's ever loved to help defeat the Nazis (and save her husband's life). Having more than a passing experience with those character defects, I'm drawn to the idea of using bad for good.

Also, I have weird ideas about what constitutes "Happily Ever After."

How does my writing process work?

I'm still refining it. My first book took foreeeeevvverrr. I knew if I wanted to do this for a living I needed a better protocol.

I tried Napoleon's strategy on the second (show up and see what happens--also known as 'pantsing') and still wasn't happy with the time from start to finish. I outlined my third, and the rough draft took about half as long as previous books. So I guess I'm a 'plotter,' though my characters like to deviate from the freakin' plan at the least convenient times.

That's the cool part, though--when you're writing according to your perfect little outline and your character does or says something you didn't expect.

Another neat addition this year is that I began working with Ed Stackler, editor for the incredible Greg Iles, whose book NATCHEZ BURNING is winning rave reviews. Ed has a way of drilling down to what's important. When you know your characters and the obstacles they're facing, writing what happens next is easy (Ha!)

Well, that's it. I'm going to tag two of my favorite writers, Mary McIntyre Coley and Jackie King. Hopefully next week you'll learn how these lovely ladies construct their novels of suspense!

Cheers...and Happy Writing!