Monday, May 18, 2015

Some Recomendations

You know the old wedding rhyme "something old, something new..."? I'm going to start using a similar rhyme to recommend some books.

Something old (10 years or older): The Girl in the Glass by Jeffrey Ford - Ford, primarily known for his fantasy fiction, won The Edgar for this book. (It was an adventuresome year for The Edgars with this win and Brian Evenson nominated).  Great characters and Ford's inventive imagination fuel this one. Not to be missed, and, arguably, not your typical Edgar fare.

The Great Depression has bound a nation in despair -- and only a privileged few have risen above it: the exorbitantly wealthy ... and the hucksters who feed upon them. Diego, a seventeen-year-old illegal Mexican immigrant, owes his salvation to master grifter Thomas Schell. Together with Schell's gruff and powerful partner, they sail comfortably through hard times, scamming New York's grieving rich with elaborate, ingeniously staged séances -- until an impossible occurrence changes everything.

While "communing with spirits," Schell sees an image of a young girl in a pane of glass, silently entreating the con man for help. Though well aware that his otherworldly "powers" are a sham, Schell inexplicably offers his services to help find the lost child -- drawing Diego along with him into a tangled maze of deadly secrets and terrible experimentation.

Something new (recent): Volcano Girls by Chris D. - Turns out musician Chris D. is a fan of noir, hardboiled, and pulp fiction and writes books at the intersection of these interests. There pretty damn good too, like old-school Gold Medal books. Hit all the beats you love with out dry humping the retro pulp corpse.

Half-sisters, schoolteacher Mona and junkie punk rocker Terri, are uneasy roommates while taking care of their sick mother, Consuela. When their boyfriends, deputy Johnny Cullen and killer Merle Chambers, clash due to labor struggles in their small town of Devil’s River, the two women are pulled inexorably into the fray. To make matters worse, jealous female sheriff, Billie Travers, decides Mona is intruding on her faltering love affair, and quiet small town life amps up into an apocalyptic nightmare of uncontrollable violence and destruction.

Something other (something not crime): Unicorn Battle Squad by Kirsten Alene - Fun and imaginative Alene takes less time then other fantasy writers to make the same point. The brevity and lived in feel serve the world building well.

Mutant unicorns. A palace with a thousand human legs. The most powerful army on the planet. A first world city on the verge of collapse.

In a city where teetering skyscrapers block out the sky, a city populated by lowly clerks, rumors have been circulating of a terror in the east. When Carl, the lowliest clerk on the negative twelfth floor, discovers that the city is indeed in grave danger, he sets out to warn the city's protectors: the Unicorn Riders.
Although Carl's missing father has left him a unicorn of his own, it is a small and sickly creature. Even worse, there is a crab claw growing from its side. But the Unicorn Riders need as much help as they can get, and soon every able rider sets out for the city's flooded perimeter in a steam-powered Spanish galleon.
An epic journey that spans desert and sea, through the bedchambers of a fearsome Eastern queen, and into the devastation of a conquered city, Unicorn Battle Squad is the story of a boy and his unicorn at the end of the world.

Something true (non-fiction): Old Sparky: The Electric Chair and the History of the Death Penalty - Only just started reading this one (due out in a couple of months) but am intrigued by it so far.

In early 2013, Robert Gleason became the latest victim of the electric chair, a peculiarly American execution method. Shouting Pog mo thin ("Kiss my ass" in Gaelic) he grinned electricity shot through his system. When the current was switched off his body slumped against the leather restraints, and Gleeson, who had strangled two fellow inmates to ensure his execution was not postponed, was dead. The execution had gone flawlessly—not a guaranteed result with the electric chair, which has gone horrifically wrong on many occasions.

Old Sparky covers the history of capital punishment in America and the “current wars” between Edison and Westinghouse which led to the development of the electric chair. It examines how the electric chair became the most popular method of execution in America, before being superseded by lethal injection. Famous executions are explored, alongside quirky last meals and poignant last words.

The death penalty remains a hot topic of debate in America, and Old Sparky does not shy away from that controversy. Executions have gone spectacularly wrong, with convicts being set alight, and needing up to five jolts of electricity before dying. There have been terrible miscarriages of justice, and the death penalty has not been applied even-handedly. Historically, African-Americans, the mentally challenged, and poor defendants have been likely to get the chair, an anomaly which led the Supreme Court to briefly suspend the death penalty. Since the resumption of capital punishment in 1976 Texas alone has executed more than 500 prisoners, and death row is full.