Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Crime in Many Forms

Time does go by fast.  I remember quite well seeing Boyz n the Hood when it came out in 1991; I saw it in a theater in Manhattan that has since been torn down.  No need to go into how impressive a debut film that was by twenty-three year old director John Singleton or how that film's success shadowed the rest of his career.  Make that strong a movie on your first try, and at such a young age, and people compare every film you do subsequently to that debut.

I liked Singleton as a director.  Above all, I got the sense he tried to put as much of himself and his concerns as he could into every film he made, regardless of how personal the material was to him.  And he certainly made crime, in one form or another, central to his work.  He dealt with it in a serious and realistic fashion, like in Boyz n the Hood, and he could handle it in a more over the top popcorn entertainment kind of way, like in Four Brothers (a film I enjoy every time I see it, especially for Chiwetel Ejiofor's performance as the bad guy, Victor Sweet).  On Shaft, there was contention on the set involving Singleton, Samuel Jackson, and Richard Price after the producer brought Price in to rework Singleton's script, but this is another film that, while no masterpiece, is fun to watch. And again Singleton showed his talent for casting great actors as his villains to help make the dramatic stakes high: in Shaft you've got both Christian Bale and Jeffrey Wright (as the wonderfully named Peoples Hernandez) as the nasty ones Shaft has to take down.

Overall, and though he makes some changes to the historical record, I think Rosewood is Singleton's most gutsy and ambitious film. I remember being amazed, when the film was released, that I had never even heard of the 1923  massacre in Florida, a case where a mob of whites, after a white woman accused a black man of assault, destroyed the primarily black town of Rosewood.  Many town residents were killed and the town was all but burned to the ground.  Rosewood is the film in which Singleton works on his largest scale, with a big cast, and asks people, in the most serious way, to grapple with American history at its ugliest. Perhaps unsurprisingly, it's not a film that did well at the box office, and Singleton never really tried to make a film that ambitious ever again.  But it's well worth seeing if you haven't seen it yet, and it doesn't take much insight to say that it definitely remains a relevant film.

RIP John Singleton

Monday, April 29, 2019

Monday Review - THE UNREPENANT by E.A. Aymar

From the first line THE UNREPENTANT grabs the reader’s attention and does not let go.

A dark premise.

Outside Baltimore, quiet army vet Mace Peterson witnesses the abduction of a young girl. Unable to ignore someone in trouble and relying on his military training, Mace intervenes, freeing the girl from her captors.

However, the girl is stronger than first believed. Eighteen-year old Charlotte Reyes is a runaway, having already escaped an abusive home, she has been tricked and unwittingly taken across country. Victim of a sex-trafficking ring.

Having evaded the immediate threat, both Charlotte and Mace face far more danger as the criminals behind Charlotte’s suffering continue to track them down.

The depth of these characters draws the reader in deeper and deeper.

Mace, despite his army past, is fragile and unsteady, struggling with divorce and a family history of mental illness and suicide. Charlotte is a clever, but hardened ass-kicker, who has learned to take care of herself and looks forward to serving up revenge. They are both haunted, tortured characters, alone and lost.

Charlotte Reyes is a truly original character and Mr. Aymar has written her beautifully. A fighter. A survivor. Her strength is physical, emotional, and mental. The holy trinity. Capable of doing what it takes to endure, the reader watches as she manages the abuse she is given. Ceding at times, but never giving up. Surrendering only so she might live another day.

THE UNREPENANT also presents the reader with several absolutely disgusting antagonists. Brothers looking to make a buck and stay away from their own abusive family. A crooked cop used as muscle and speed. And the predatory, greedy, and often violent leader Barnes, who decides the fate of everyone involved.

This story, in the hands of any other author, might turn bleak or succumb to hopelessness.

Written as a thriller, but far deeper and more emotional, this is a story of courage and compassion. Revenge. Aymar seasons the tale with enough dark humor to alleviate the overwhelming weight of the subject manner. He neither downplays nor embellishes the violence and abuse, but offers it as a terrible truth. Each word flows to tell a multilayered tale that will sit with you for a long time to come.

“Charlotte’s experiences, while not unheard of, are exaggerated for dramatic effect in THE UNREPENANT. Most women don’t come to prostitution the same way she does (although some do), but the suffering and subsequent trauma are often similar. And while this is a thriller and a work of fiction, I certainly didn’t want to employ suffering as a plot device or diminish abuse. I wanted Charlotte’s pain to reach you, like a hand stretching out of the pages.”E.A. Aymar

THE UNREPENTANT is a brutal and unsettling story. A hardboiled and gut-wrenching read.


E.A. Aymar appears monthly in the Washington Independent Review of Books, and he is also the Managing Editor of The Thrill Begins, ITW’s online resource for aspiring and debut thriller writers; he also serves on the Board of ITW as the Vice President of Author Programs. In addition to ITW, he is a member of the Mystery Writers of America and SinC.

Ed also runs the Noir at the Bar series for Washington, D.C., and has hosted and spoken at a variety of crime fiction, writing, and publishing events nationwide. He was born in Panama and now lives and writes in the D.C./MD/VA triangle.

Other titles by E.A. Aymar


I’ll Sleep When You’re Dead

You're As Good As Dead

As Co-Editor with Sarah M. Chen and Contributor

Sunday, April 28, 2019

Symbiosis, or Bringing Book Lovers Together

James L'Etoile and I at the Local Author Expo crime fiction table. He brought the crime scene tape, which I loved so much that I considered stealing it. He's retired law enforcement though, so I thought better of it.
I spent yesterday being part of the perfect symbiotic relationship. The Folsom Public Library had a Local Author Expo, with dozens of writers from all different genres and age categories under one roof.
I’ve always found book fairs that include all genres to be really beneficial. I’m reaching readers that I wouldn’t necessarily find otherwise. Even if they wouldn’t touch crime fiction, they walk by my table and suddenly remember their relative who loves mysteries and has a birthday coming up. I went to the Bay Area Book Fair a few years ago to sell my books and maybe pick up a few mysteries to read. Instead, I fell in love with a chef I heard speak while just killing time before my next stint at the sellers’ table. Her cookbook is now in my kitchen (chef Samin Nosrat, Salt Fat Acid Heat—I found her before Netflix did!).
Having this kind of a event at a library heightens this collaboration exponentially. You get the traffic that is there specifically to meet authors, and you get the folks who didn’t even know the expo was happening; they’re just there to check out some library books. But hey, they’re not going to pass up a chance to browse some more books, right? And if that means they end up checking one of my books out of the library, that’s just as much a win for me as if they’d bought one.*
And that’s what happened yesterday. Foot traffic was pretty steady all day. And about halfway through, I left my display in care of my friend and tablemate (see action photo above) and wandered around talking to authors myself. This was great—I got a few good publicity tips, met friendly, interesting people and saw great books I otherwise wouldn’t know about.

Here are a few:

LaDonna Plays Hoops by Kimberly Gordon Biddle. Girls! Basketball! Sheet music for a song written specifically for the book! Visit the author here. Buy it here, or ask your local library to order it*.

The Girls Survive series by Nikki Shannon Smith. The third in the series, set during the Civil War, comes out in August. Visit the author here. Buy the books here and here or ask your library to order them. I'm serious here. Even if you don't have a child yourself, I think your local library should carry all three, don't you?
* If you’re a library patron, and your local library doesn’t have a book you’re interested in, don’t hesitate to ask them to order it. Look on the library website; often there’s a form you can fill out to request a book purchase. Or talk to a librarian in person. They’re the nicest people on earth. They might figure out how to add it to their collection, and this leads back to the exponential thing. You’re helping authors A LOT. Sure, that book results in one sale. But it gets our books into the hands of tons more readers. So if you can’t buy a book—for whatever reason—consider asking your library for it. The library, and the author, will thank you.

Saturday, April 27, 2019

Year of an Indie Writer: Week 17

Scott D. Parker

Well, it turned out to be a writing-centric week, capped off by a triumvirate of awesomeness yesterday: finished a book, heard a new Springsteen song (something like 14 times), and watched the final movie a decade in the making.

Writing Tips Are Always Welcome

Four of the six posts since last week's entry of the Year of an Indie Writer series focused on learning. Dean Wesley Smith discussed how writers think they've gone the 'wrong' way with a story, but authors are often the worst judges of our own work. I experience that literally this month.

I revisited lessons from pulp fiction legend Frank Gruber, and ended the week talking about the things we can actually control (part 1 and part 2). There's only so much over which we writers have dominion and it's best not to worry about everything else. Easier said than done, sometimes, but it'll ultimately prove beneficial.

Aztec Sword is Done

I mentioned last week I finished proofing the latest Calvin Carter novel, but felt it needed another chapter. Actually, it turned into four. But the story now feels complete with an ending I like.

But it was touch and go for the first half of the week. With a "only one more chapter" mentality, I realized I couldn't fit in all I wanted in one chapter. That gave me some heartache because I was not going to change my publication date of 1 May.

And yesterday, I put the last period on the book. Whew!

But what is it about?

Aztec Sword Description

Actor turned detective Calvin Carter stands on his favorite place--a stage--when armed bandits attack. Carter and his partner, Thomas Jackson, foil the robbery, and the surviving gunman snitches the name of the mystery man who hired the gang.

Both men soon die, taking their secrets to the grave.

Turns out, the entire robbery was an elaborate distraction. In the melee, a master thief with a unique calling card swipes a prized artifact: a macuahuitl, an Aztec sword, dating back to the Spanish conquest of the New World.

But when Carter and Jackson are assigned to track down and recover the sword, those men who know about the macuahuitl start dying, one by one. If Carter and Jackson aren't careful, they will be next.

Bruce Springsteen's New Song: Hello Sunshine

Well, the contest for Favorite Song of 2019 is over.

One word review: Gorgeous.

It's been three years since I had an emotional reaction to a song on first listen. That one was joy. This one was simultaneously happy, melancholy, and nostalgic. It was like a song from my childhood, yet it's a tune my fifty-year-old self experienced for the first time. I didn't roll a tear, but they were in there. Beautiful song. Instant classic Springsteen song for me.

If this is any indication of how the rest of the new album is, then the contest for Favorite Album of 2019 is done.

Just listen.

Avengers: Endgame

Saw it.

Loved it.

Perfect ending to a decade of movies.

How's that for a spoiler-free review?

Tune in Tomorrow...

On my own blog, I'm writing about an album that turns 50.