Saturday, August 29, 2020

The Summer of Bosch


Scott D. Parker


A few weeks ago, I wrote about watching the Amazon Prime TV series Bosch. Based on Michael Connelly’s novel series, there are now six seasons, 60 episodes of excellent television.

And I’ve gone through them all.

Now I’ve caught up with the rest of the folks who watched Bosch live as it aired. I’m not a binger. I still have the weekly airing of TV episodes ingrained in my DNA. But with streaming, I have modified my viewing. With about an hour a day for TV, my wife and I watch a show at 9pm every night. Thus, a 10-episode season of Bosch typically took about ten days, more or less.

Except the last couple of seasons.

Now, work nights, I still have only an hour for TV, but when the viewing bled into the weekends? Well, we might watch two or (shocker) three a night. I know that sounds funny to some of y’all, but I don’t like to blow through TV shows and have nothing left.

Early on this summer, we watched season 1 of Bosch then switched to another show. Prodigal Son. Happened again after season 2 (although I forgot the other show). Then the magic happened. After season 3 as we were discussing which show to watch next, the wife suggested Bosch season 4.


And we didn’t look back until we had finished the entire series to date.

I wrote earlier about the cast and they remain the best thing about the show. But as the series went on, I particularly liked the relationship between Bosch and his daughter who, by season six, is a college student finding her way through life. Titus Welliver and Madison Lintz have such good chemistry that you’d almost think they really are father and daughter.

The one thing I dislike about binging is the sudden void after you’ve reached the end. Tis why I like to watch shows slow. When we reached episode 60, there was a moment where we looked at each other and questioned if that was it? (We had purposefully avoided looking up anything on the internet because we didn’t want any spoilers. My wife spoiled herself when she was reading about the show and learned the fate of one of the major characters.)

Yes, there will be a season 7, but that’ll be it. Amazon has cancelled the show, but allowed it to end gracefully.

So it turned out that the Bosch TV show was our through line during the summer of 2020. I couldn’t be more satisfied.


BTW, our next show is Glitch (Netflix), an Australian show with an interesting premise: a few dead folks crawl out of their graves one night without any memories but in perfect health. 

Thursday, August 27, 2020

A savage pick from Beau

This week, Beau shows some love for Savages.

Part-time environmentalist and philanthropist Ben and his ex-mercenary buddy Chon run a Laguna Beach–based marijuana operation, reaping significant profits from their loyal clientele. In the past when their turf was challenged, Chon took care of eliminating the threat. But now they may have come up against something that they can’t handle—the Mexican Baja Cartel wants in, and sends them the message that a “no” is unacceptable. When they refuse to back down, the cartel escalates its threat, kidnapping Ophelia, the boys’ playmate and confidante. O’s abduction sets off a dizzying array of ingenious negotiations and gripping plot twists that will captivate readers eager to learn the costs of freedom and the price of one amazing high.


Wednesday, August 26, 2020

The Familiar Dark


This week, Beau takes a look at The Familiar Dark by Amy Engel.

A spellbinding story of a mother with nothing left to lose who sets out on an all-consuming quest for justice after her daughter is murdered on the town playground.

Sometimes the answers are worse than the questions. Sometimes it's better not to know.

Set in the poorest part of the Missouri Ozarks, in a small town with big secrets, The Familiar Dark opens with a murder. Eve Taggert, desperate with grief over losing her daughter, takes it upon herself to find out the truth about what happened. Eve is no stranger to the dark side of life, having been raised by a hard-edged mother whose lessons Eve tried not to pass on to her own daughter. But Eve may need her mother's cruel brand of strength if she's going to face the reality about her daughter's death and about her own true nature. Her quest for justice takes her from the seedy underbelly of town to the quiet woods and, most frighteningly, back to her mother's trailer for a final lesson.

The Familiar Dark is a story about the bonds of family—women doing the best they can for their daughters in dire circumstances—as well as a story about how even the darkest and most terrifying of places can provide the comfort of home.

Amy Engel is the author of The Roanoke Girls and The Book of Ivy series. A former criminal defense attorney, she lives in Missouri with her family.

Tuesday, August 25, 2020

Lee Matthew Goldberg's The Ancestor

Scott's Note: Lee Matthew Goldberg guest blogs today, talking about his new novel, The Ancestor.  It's a story set in Alaska, in cold cold weather, and in this piece, Lee tells us about the influences -- literary, cinematic, and musical -- that went into its creation.

Take it away, Lee... 


Ideas tend to materialize in different ways for me. My last book, The Desire Card, was written around the time of Occupy Wall Street when I imagined a one-percenter unable to secure a new liver he desperately needed, despite having all the money to pay. For my second book, The Mentor, I was hired to write a Cape Fear tale set in the publishing world. My debut, Slow Down, came from seeing a tattoo of a yellow circle on the small of someone’s back. I pictured a city where a group of actors had the same tattoo, all of them appearing in a mysterious film. For my newest novel, The Ancestor, I was listening to the song “The Ancestor” by the band Darlingside. I had heard the opening lines where it describes a person being buried, but they will find their way out of the dark someday. From there, the book began to download. I pictured a man buried under ice in the Alaskan wilderness. He wakes with amnesia but has his survival skills intact. He can kill a wolf and skin it to keep warm with its fur. He has a mirror around his neck and sees a reflection of a giant beard consuming his face. There is a hunter named Travis nearby who appears to be his doppelgänger. He follows him home and sees Travis’s wife, Callie, and child, which brings forth a flood of memories of his own family, except they are from the late 1800s—meaning he’s been frozen in time for a century, immersed in ice, and that he may be Travis’s ancestor.

The song “The Ancestor” evoked the mood I was looking for while writing: one of isolation. The ideas marinated for about two years, something I tend to do as the characters become living and breathing. The fictional town of Laner formed, a tiny speck in the middle of nowhere filled with fishermen and those fleeing to the edge of the world. Folks escaping their pasts to a place that freezes for most of the year. The main character, Wyatt, searches for who he truly is, but he’s not the only one. The book is populated with those in flux: a woman working at the local brothel who longs for more, Travis’s wife Callie who’s uprooted from California but has never fit in, Travis’s father Stu, a sheriff whose son drowned due to a criminal underbelly on the outskirts. Each character has something they cannot reconcile. 

Alternating between the past and the present, Wyatt remembers more of his life when he was a prospector leaving his family to seek gold in Alaska and the terrible things that led him to his fate. I did extensive research on the Alaskan Gold Rush era. The books Klondike by Pierre Barton and The Floor of Heaven by Harold Blum were a great help along with Dawson City: Frozen Time, a documentary film about a town just south of the Arctic Circle that brought a hundred thousand prospectors to the area. Unlike the California Gold Rush, the Alaskan one was very perilous and many lost their lives in pursuit of gold, adventurers unwilling to give up the lawless days of the Wild West, unable to settle into regular lives. It’s this dogged quest that Wyatt brings back into the present time, remembering the gold he may have hidden before he froze, along with his newfound desire to take Travis’s family as his own when he falls in love with Callie. Despite being partially a historical tale, I wanted the book to bleed from genre to genre. All of my books have thriller elements, but I aspired for this one to read as a literary tale and a historical journey with a sprinkle of the supernatural. If Wyatt isn’t crazy and he really was frozen, what otherworldly presence made this occur, or has it always been inside of him?

In terms of fiction, since The Ancestor mixes genres, I was reading a vast array of titles. Cormac McCarthy is one of my favorite authors and his poetic but sparse prose mimicked the type of tone I needed for The Ancestor, so I read Child of God, The Orchard Keeper and Outer Dark, a few of his earlier works. Exclusively, I also read books set in frozen landscapes like The Ploughmen by Kim Zupan, Wintering by Peter Geye, Heroes of the Frontier by Dave Eggers, and The Revenant by Michael Punke. For films, I watched a lot of cold weather thrillers like Wind River, Fargo, The Grey, The ThingThe Hateful Eight, The Shining and The Revenant again. With any project, I work best when I immerse myself in similar influences. The winter of 2018 was also a very cold one in the Northeast with temperatures dropping below freezing for many days in a row, so it was easy to imagine myself in Alaska in the present time, or during the Gold Rush. It would’ve been impossible for me to write a book like this at any other time of the year and not feel what my characters were experiencing on some level.  

Of all of my works, I think this is my deepest novel, a mediation on love lost and unfulfilled dreams. It delves into the idea of identity. If our mind gets stripped away, who are we really? Are we a make-up of our memories and our pasts, or something deeper, passed down through generations from our ancestors that unite us? 

I’m excited to finally release The Ancestor into the world.  


You can get The Ancestor here. 

Sunday, August 23, 2020


By Claire Booth 


This week, there was a convergence of events in my little corner of the world. One was small—I chose to read a particular book; and one was big—my state is on fire.

Let’s start with the big one. California had a series of lightning storms last weekend that sparked hundreds of wildfires. Dozens of those have exploded into conflagrations that have forced people to flee their homes, shut down major interstates, and sent flames roaring through an old-growth redwood forest.

These fires have also made ash fall from the sky. The sky is brown, the sunlight is dark orange, and the temperature is in the triple digits. It feels like a warped version of the natural world.

Which brings me to the small thing. It involves a book, of course. One that had been on my want-to-read list since it came out in 2015. Regular life and keeping up with books in my own genre of crime fiction meant I never got around to it until a few weeks ago.

The Fifth Season falls within the fantasy genre. It’s the first book in a trilogy by N.K. Jemisin that imagines a seismically active Earth thousands of years in the future. Volcanic eruptions and earthquakes are common and trigger other environmental disasters. Like ash, falling from the sky.

This was a nice bit of timing for me here in Northern California, but there are plenty of reasons Jemisin’s books would be applicable to you, wherever you live. Everything from The Fifth Season’s world building to character development to the shifting points of view make it a master class in storytelling. And then there’s her voice. That’s the amorphous** something that makes a particular writer’s work her own, that makes a reader fall in love. It’s an unmistakable stamp that—when it’s strong and unique—is what lets readers recognize the author’s work even if her name’s not on the page. It’s the thing that takes a reader by the hand and says, “Come with me, I’m promising you a journey, and I won’t disappoint.”

And let me say this. I opened up The Fifth Season and after the first page, I thought, “okay, this is very promising.” By page three—that’s what, barely 750 words?—I was all hers. I had no idea where she was taking me, but I had complete trust in her to do so. Jemisin had taken my hand.

Jemisin won the Hugo Award, one of science fiction’s top awards, three years in a row—for every book in the trilogy. It’s the only time that’s ever been done. 

Because writing at that level book after book, about the same characters, is hard. There was even a faction of the fantasy/sci fi community that actively fought against her because she’s an African-American woman. Neither of those demographics have been historically welcome in the fantasy/sci fi genre.

I’ve now devoured the second volume of the trilogy and am readying myself to return to Jemisin’s ashfall for the third book. Now if only the real life ashfall would stop.