Saturday, December 17, 2022

New Year’s Resolutions: Just Try

Scott D. Parker

Do you have your New Year’s resolutions planned yet?

Yeah, yeah, I know it’s still two weeks away but this will be my last post at Do Some Damage until January. But I’ve already started thinking and planning the things I want to accomplish in 2023 and it is really important to kick off the year on a good note.

On the Daily Stoic podcast, host Ryan Holiday wondered why we constantly make New Year’s resolutions and he brought in a quote from Samuel Johnson: “Reformation is necessary and despair is criminal.” I looked up this quote to see if it is part of something larger and it is: “When I find that so much of my life has stolen unprofitably away, and that I can descry by retrospection scarcely a few single days properly and vigorously employed, why do I yet try to resolve again? I try, because reformation is necessary and despair is criminal. I try, in humble hope of the help of God.”

I know lots of folks have a good first week in January and then, by around the six-week mark, most folks have given up on their resolutions. But you don’t have to.

Which I why I’ve been structuring my own resolutions around smaller yet quantifiable goals. The key for me is to have a good January so that I can maintain the newly formed habit. For me, any new resolution I make I will do during the 31 days of January. I will keep track of the new habits daily and mark them on my calendar. Then, by 1 February, the bulk of the new habits will have become ingrained. It’s how I started my flossing habit and there isn’t a day that goes by when I don’t floss.

But let’s circle back to the Johnson quote, the longer one. What he’s basically saying is that when he examines his life, he sees where he’s faltered and then questioned why try again. For many, that’s reason enough not to make resolutions For me, however, I am always optimistic that new habits and resolutions can be made and kept and maintained. I’m always looking for ways to improve my life—as a husband, father, writer, friend—and I’ll always make New Year’s resolutions.

Because what’s the alternative? You get older and then you look back on your life and wish you would have started something. Which ties right back to a quote I have pinned to my cork board: A year from now, you will have wished you started today.

Make “today” be 1 January 2023, start something new, and make your future self proud.

Friday, December 16, 2022

Holiday Gift Guide

Is it the end of another year already? 

Rather than run a list of "Best Of" books, we thought we'd have some of our DSD family suggest some books that they enjoyed. Happy shopping, everyone.


from Alex Segura

LIKE A SISTER by Kellye Garrett -- This voice-y, twisty, and compelling dose of domestic suspense has been on every Best Of list you can imagine. Get it for a friend looking for a beach read that sticks with you.

KISMET by Amina Akhtar - Are you longing for a thriller that also serves as a takedown of the Sedona wellness industry plus talking ravens? No? Well, now you are. Akhtar's novel crackles with personality and style. The kind of crime novel that transports you in the best way.

PARADOX HOTEL by Rob Hart - Speculative fiction with a helping of noir, Hart brings all his skills to the table in this time travel adventure packed with compelling characters and big picture ideas.

DON'T KNOW TOUGH by Eli Cranor - The football noir I wanted to read. A dark, rural crime story told on and off the field with a helluva twist ending. One of the best books I read this year.

REAL BAD THINGS by Kelly J. Ford - Speaking of rural noir, Ford brings it here, with a tight, taut and dark novel that evokes Woodrell with a modern twist.

THEY COME AT KNIGHT by Yasmin Angoe - The second Nena Knight novel packs a powerful punch and is even more intense and electric than Angoe's debut. Worth your time.

CALYPSO, CORPSES, AND COOKING by Raquel V. Reyes - I'm not a big cozy reader, but how could I turn down this one, set in my hometown of Miami? Reyes brings all the flavor of the city to the genre and the end result is a tropical delight of a novel.

Alex Segura is the bestselling and award-winning author of Secret Identity, which The New York Times called “wittily original” and named an Editor’s Choice. NPR described the novel as “masterful,” and it received starred reviews from Publishers Weekly, Kirkus, and Booklist. It was also listed as one of the Best Mysteries of the Year by NPR, Kirkus, Booklist, LitReactor, and the South Florida Sun Sentinel.


from Brian Lindenmuth

Living the Gimmick by Bobby Matthews: Professional wrestling is an interesting subject matter for fiction. It's an artform with story telling at its heart, there are heroes and villains writ large, it has its own history and language. It's a great spectacle frankly. As enticing as the world of wrestling is for its fans, there's a barrier in place for the wider audience. You have to show them the ropes (hurr hurr hurr) of that world then tell the story in that world. Bobby Matthews does this well. The protagonist is a retired wrestler turned bar owner. When his best friend, another wrestler, comes to visit but winds up dead, the protagonist introduces the world of wrestling to the reader at the same time he has to be reacquainted with it. Investigating his friend's death is going to uncover all sorts of shit and shine a light on what goes on behind the scenes of a wrestling show. Living the Gimmick should appeal to fans of wrestling and crime fiction.

Nine Tenths by Jeff Macfee: Macfee carves out a little space for his story in a world where superheroes exist and comes up with a grounded take on the genre. Superheroes are augmented by technology. When they fail to pay for those technological enhancements repo men are called in. From this simple premise an entire imaginative world opens up. You get gritty crime fiction stuff and superhero shenanigans and a guy caught in the middle who just wants to keep his business afloat and stay ahead of his bills. Nine Tenths should appeal to adventurous crime fiction types, those who like superhero stories, those who don't like superhero stories, and anyone who loves a vividly realized fantastical world. A superhero story by way of Repo Man? Hell yea!

Brian Lindenmuth reads books and watches a lot of movies. He occasionally reviews foreign language films at One Inch Tall Movies and other stuff at Dark Dispatch.


from Claire Booth

Her Name Is Knight by Yasmin Angoe. For readers of thrillers who like assassins, bad-ass women, and deft narrative structure and plotting (okay, that’s me getting geeky about the writing—sorry). Nena Knight is a killer for The Tribe, a group whose goal is to establish Africa as a global force and give its countries as much power as the Western world. She “dispatches” whoever she’s ordered to, until she happens upon a man who helped decimate her childhood Ghanian village and slaughter her family. The book alternates chapters between her current life as an assassin and her past life as a human trafficking victim. Both are incredible stories, and I have a feeling we’ll be seeing a lot more of Nena. The Man Who Died Twice: A Thursday Murder Club Mystery by Richard Osman. For readers of traditional mysteries and/or cozies. If you have someone like this on your gift list, get them the first one, too (The Thursday Murder Club, published last year). This is the second in Osman’s series featuring four elderly residents of a care home in England. They band together to solve a murder connected to one of their group’s previous career as a spy. (She’s never confirmed it, but the other three are quite sure, thank you very much.) Osman has created a great set of characters and the humor is tart, British, and delightful.

Blackout by Marco Carocari. For readers of thrillers who also appreciate great characters and a great, descriptive take on New York City. Two murders converge in the experiences of one man in Carocari’s debut novel. Franco DiMaso indulges in an atypical-for-him casual hookup with a man whose name he doesn’t know and ends up with a laced joint as well. The combination leaves him hazy and disoriented and unsure whether he’s just witnessed a murder. Things only get worse for Franco as he becomes a suspect and wrestles with his own father’s unsolved murder 40 years ago during the infamous New York City blackout.

Claire Booth is a former journalist who has reported on high-profile stories all over the country, including that of a California cult leader who became the subject of her nonfiction book The False Prophet. After spending so much time covering crimes so strange and convoluted they seemed more fiction than reality, she had enough of the real world and decided to write novels instead. Her Sheriff Hank Worth mysteries take place in Branson, Missouri, where small-town Ozark politics and big-city country music tourism clash in – yes – strange and convoluted ways. More at


from Sandra Ruttan

Killers of a Certain Age by Deanna RaybournNot only is Killers of a Certain Age a female-driven thriller, it's a thriller focusing on women heading into retirement. Four trained assassins must try to unravel their past when they're targeted by a killer. This is a thriller that kept me turning the pages and guessing from start to finish, and it's incredibly refreshing to discover a story highlighting the fact that age is just a number, and older assassins can be every bit as deadly as their younger rivals. This book is perfect for those who like action-packed stories and don't shy away from some violence.

Kismet by Amina AkhtarSome stories could happen anywhere. Others are tied to their location in an intricate way, and that's the case with Kismet. Ronnie finally breaks free from an abusive aunt and the restrictions of her life in New York City, but finds herself in the middle of a mystery when people start dying. I found this to be a fast-paced thriller with an interesting protagonist and was impressed with Akhtar's sleight of hand storytelling. Kismet is perfect for readers who love stories with a strong sense of place and amateur sleuths with compelling backstories.

Found Object by Anne FrasierThere's something about the story behind the title that sets you up for a bit of a surreal journey. You realize you're dealing with someone broken, someone twisted by their exposure to a person who doesn't quite function the way the rest of us do, and this exposure has tainted their life, shaping their relationship failures and view of the world. I felt an instant connection with Jupiter, not because of any shared experience but because she's haunted by her past and trying to come to terms with it without much support. An intriguing thriller where secrets and lies and fears converge in devastating ways. Found Object also evokes a strong sense of place, and those who enjoy stories where old and new crimes collide should check out Frasier's latest.

Station Eternity by Mur LaffertyMallory Viridian's life is so complicated, she's fled earth and sought refuge on a space station. It seems like the only way to keep people from dying around her, so she's upset when she learns humans are on their way to the station. Unable to prevent another death, she finds herself navigating alien cultures and an array of motives when one of the most unlikable beings on the station is murdered. Lots of original concepts here combine to make this an engaging crossover perfect for people who love sci fi and mysteries.

Sandra Ruttan is an author, editor, and reviewer. Sandra and Laurel Hightower edited The Dead Inside, an identity horror anthology, that was released in 2022. She reviews and maintains Dark Dispatch and you can find her online at and
She's on Hive as @darkdispatch and on Instagram as sandraruttan and dark.dispatch


from Beau Johnson

Rooster by John FosterIf I would suggest one book I read this year as a Christmas gift, it would be Rooster by John Foster. Fun, fast, and with a voice that means business, I thoroughly enjoyed it. Throw in a retribution storyline, the past coming back to haunt a man, fisticuffs and bullets to the face, and yeah, consider me recommending. Go forth, seek out, get a copy for that reader in your life. Fun was had!

Beau Johnson is the creator of Bishop Rider.

Thursday, December 15, 2022

Beau wants to stuff your stocking with books


This week, Beau Johnson has some suggestions for the book givers among you.

And you can pick up Beau's latest here.

Wednesday, December 14, 2022

Season's Greetings

It's the middle of December. My wife's job already had their holiday party. My job's holiday party is on Thursday. Point being... it's cold. The holidays are almost here. And no one has the attention or drive to do a goddamn thing.

I wish I had more to talk about, but, you know, see above. It really is all winding down. It's been cold for a while here, but the other night after walking the dog I said to my wife, "I know we've had colder days, but tonight I could feel winter in the wind."

And, sure, maybe I sounded too much like a George RR Martin character, but it was true.

Winter is here. The time we drink and stay inside and read books and, assuming it's not going to wipe out your family in a carbon monoxide accident, enjoy both of those activities by a roaring fire.

I'll post again before Christmas, I think. But if I don't, here's to wishing you and yours a beautiful holiday. Stay warm. Take care of yourselves. Hail Satan. Read crime fiction. Drink egg nog.

Actually, skip the egg nog. That shit is trash.

Tuesday, December 13, 2022

Beach Bodies

There I was, last book, reading an obscure Ford Madox Ford novel named A Call.  It's a 1925 novel of manners set among the British upper class, with all that entails. I enjoyed it, as I do those kind of books from time to time, but when I finished it, I felt myself in the mood for something different, in tone, style, period, everything.  Cut to a Kindle download, and I'm reading the recent Nick Kolakowski novella Beach Bodies, which in every imaginable way is about as far as you can get from a 1925 British novel of manners.

Beach Bodies is vintage Nick. It has a slightly off-the-wall premise, smooth writing, a very fast pace, sarcasm, violence both over the top and funny, and a core, it turns out, of earnest emotion.  Not that earnestness or any kind of emotion will necessarily save anyone in the end, but it's there, giving the main characters in a story 90 or so pages long just enough depth and background to make them relatable and of substance.

The set-up here: Julia has gotten a job caring for and living in a billionaire's doomsday bunker that is on an island somewhere tropical. Above the bunker is a gorgeous beach, the ocean.  She has allowed in one guest, an ex-boyfriend name Alec, just back from the Russia-Ukraine war he got caught in the middle of while living in Kyiv trading cryptocurrency.  The bunker is utterly isolated and has every technological amenity one could imagine, but it also has surveillance equipment that allows Julia (and Alec) to be watched at all times by Julia's recruiter, who is off somewhere, Julia presumes, "in a comfortable office far above the streets of Seattle or Los Angeles or Hong Kong".

To this idyllic but creepy locale come three other people, two men and a woman, and their intentions, shall we say, are not what you would describe as friendly.  Besides, how did they get to this out-of-the-way location, how did they even know it exists, and what's the so-called mission that they say they're on?  In no time at all, Beach Bodies reveals itself as a home invasion thriller of sorts, (or should we call it a bunker invasion), and from there the plot and incidents really take off, getting progressively more and more extreme.  Action mixes with mystery mixes with gory slapstick mixes with science fiction. It's Julia and Alec against the intruders, and along the way we get to learn their backstory, a relationship not without its high points and also its ludicrously low ones.  And at the very end, what's going on is made clear, in a twist that makes sense and actually has an emotional basis.  The payoff satisfies.

Over several books now, Nick Kolakowski has been honing his distinctive approach, which is to blend genre tropes with a healthy dose of acerbic social commentary.  What he does especially well is keep his plots hurtling along while making his satiric and biting points, no small feat, and he's adept at quick sketch characterizations that keep the proceedings from becoming cartoonish.  Beach Bodies does all this, and, I should add, has a quite resonant final line.  As a reader, it's always nice to end a book with a chuckle, and with this one, courtesy of Nick, I did.

You can get Beach Bodies here.