- Are ‘real stories’ drawing energy away from good fiction (via Guardian)
- Fans of Dicken’s Oliver Twist have wondered where the cruel workhouse featured in the book came from. Well, in the UK they think they might have found the inspiration (via Telegraph)
- In Jakarta, tourist based used book stores rule the day (via Jakarta Globe)
- Letters from John Lennon to Yoko Ono will be going to print (via MTV UK)
- More Larsson drama (via UPI)
- Great story about an immigrant to Canada who publishes a book, bucking the odds at the age of 15 (via Toronto Sun)
Monday: A jam packed start of the week with three installments on the blog. We found some book news for BIR, retraced the possible origins of Don Quixote as war trauma and interviewed Jon F. Merz ahead of his new book release, The Kensei.
Tuesday: Local author Jon F. Merz released his newest vampire enforcer book, The Kensei. We reviewed the book which reminds readers that not all vampire action has become toothless.
Thursday: Mexi-Cali Noir has captured our review attention with T. Jefferson Parker’s new book The Border Lords.
Friday: A quiet day around B3 HQ means a super-sized round of book news for BIR.
- 3 Million Books are housed in a Belgian tower! Now, the Ghent Book Tower is being refurbished (via Flandersnews.Be)
- Need some style advice for your bulging bookshelves (via Washington Post)
- We admit it, we like Dolly Parton. She is a sweet and sassy Backwoods Barbie, with a outstanding bluegrass voice and apparently philanthropic when it comes to books (via Middletown Journal)
- Want to know how many books bought or borrowed in one week? (via Globe and Mail)
- Another e-book success story (via Oregon Live)
- Despite the gloom, another bookstore expands (via Poughkeepsie Journal)
- Next week is chok-a-block with author readings here in metro-Boston (via Boston.com)
- A dust up over sexually explicit manga and anime in Japan (via Japan Times)
- We’ve been long time proponents of the French comic book industry and folks in Ireland want to let the English-speaking world to know their virtues (via Irish Times)
- Istanbul apparently woefully lacks libraries (via Hurriyet Daily News)
We’ve said this before, but we love Cali-Noir. There is something about the gilded reality that make southern California crime thrillers spark with an intensity. So we were naturally drawn to T. Jefferson Parker’s newest novel The Border Lords, set in southern California and Baja. A true sand, surf, guns and crime epic.
The Border Lords is the fourth installment in the story of Charlie Hood, a L.A. law enforcer, is attached to an ATF team running down guns and battling drugs in the exceedingly dangerous border towns of northern Mexico.
The book starts with a shooting at a safehouse under surveillance. From that point the forces of good and evil, Hood, a burned out undercover operator Sean Ozburn, corrupt freshman cop Bradley Jones and mysterious Mike Finnegan begin their methodical convergence. Thrown into this dance are Seliah, Ozburn’s fiery and devoted wife, along with an odd priest by the name of Leftwich.
Hood is a nuanced, solid, squared away cop whose loyalty and sense of right are unwavering. Not necessarily straight as an arrow, but more perennial like the twisting Colorado River. Ozburn is realizing it’s better to burn out than to fade away, a hallucinogenic hero gone bad.
Interesting was the mysterious priest Leftwich, with Parker creating an almost Moriarty-esque villain lurking on the periphery and manipulating the plot.
Parker somehow wrangles all these characters, plus a few more, into scene after scene. He keeps you invested, moving the story along, but not dwelling or wasting ink with abrupt or laborious scenes. He takes you from California, to Mexico, to remote desert airstrips and eco-resorts in Costa Rica.
The MacGuffin of The Border Lords is a run of almost omnipotent fictional machine pistols dubbed Love 32, sought by some and wielded by others. They are the lightning bolts of revelation and tools of death.
Parker jumps back and forth between most major players, keeping some in the shadows until the last minute, consistently building to a series of climaxes. Yes, if you are a crime thriller reading veteran, you’ll see some of the twists coming. But it’s Parker’s ability to craft superbly nuanced scenes that makes The Border Lords unpredictable.
Parker’s characters unyieldingly greedy or loyal. The are upstanding citizens willing to bend the to “do what’s right” or willing to do what’s wrong in order to smother personal inadequacies.
The Border Lords is an excellent book, easily read by a novice to the Charlie Hood universe, showing us that bare knuckle books can aspire to intricacy in plot and genuine shocking turns.
The Border Lords by T. Jefferson Parker was received for free by the Boston Book Bums.
- A French academic is being accused of plagiarism of Umberto Eco (via Montreal Gazette)
- The book sales yo-yo is making us dizzy (via L.A. Times)
- Bay Area would-be authors a heads up, Pitchapalooza is tomorrow! (via SF Weekly)
- A children’s bookstore thrives with innovation and activities (via SGVTribune.com)
- If a changing book buying landscape isn’t bad enough, one Astoria book seller is forced to move because of rent (via NY Daily News)
- While military parents serve overseas a new effort to bring families closer, remotely, through reading the same books (via The Guardian)
You Know When the Men Are Gone by Siobhan Fallon- This a collection of stories about the wives and children living in Fort Hood, TX, while their husbands are deployed to Iraq. As an Army wife herself, Fallon will likely bring an interesting perspective to the stories of these women.
The Girl in the Green Raincoat by Laura Lippman- The eleven book in the Tess Monagan series. Think Rear Window with Jimmy Stewart but replace paralyzed Jimmy with very pregnant, bed-confined Tess Monagan.
The Kensei follows vampire ‘Fixer’ Lawson (star of a series of vampire adventure books) as he travels to Japan for some down time and dojo time. However, once in country things go south for Lawson, leading him to join forces with his lover, a former KGB death-dealer also in Nippon on her own quest, and a series of other allies to do ultimate battle with a character known as The Kensei.
Author Merz, a practitioner of ninjitsu and skilled in close quarters engagements, pumps new life into a faltering genre. Some vampires are painfully Emo and exceedingly dull or conversely overwritten with machismo.
Not Merz’s Lawson, a tall, lean, mean, sarcastic and a well tuned killing machine. Perfect? No. And that is why Lawson is so interesting. He could be a silly superhero with fangs. But Lawson is a dedicated warrior, an immortal operator, but not infallible and not invincible. He has those bursts of old school macho, but balanced with imperfection, not unlike American pulp heroes of the early 20th century.
Lawson is pitted in one engagement after another, each more dangerous and taxing than the last. Yet when Lawson balances his mind and body, he is close to unbeatable.
Merz writes the numerous fights and gun battles quite well, as someone who knows how the deed is done, imbuing the action with an amped up level of authenticity. You can practically hear joints pop and bones break.
Also working in Merz’s favor is his straightforward, yet detail peppered mythology. Merz’s shadow universe meshes perfectly with our 21st century reality. With the entire story set in Japan, Merz captures the pulsing life of Tokyo perfectly and finds off-center cultural observations that only a gaijin would notice.
The Kensei is The Mechanic meets Vampire Hunter D, knuckle busting, supernatural adventure reading at its best.
The Kensei by Jon F. Merz was received for free by the Boston Book Bums
- Hot blooded blood suckers! Paranormal romance doesn’t seem to be slowing among Vegas readers (via Las Vegas Review Journal)
- One boy turned into a superhero by his novice author dad. And the dad is a hero all his own (via Daily Mail)
- Library closings in the UK prompted locals to do something amazing- check out EVERY book, all 16,000, in one British library (via Guardian)
- Even after the decades, Catcher in the Rye is still a target of banning. Despite one attempt in Florida, the book remains on the shelves at a school (via TC Palm)
- With publishers facing vanishing pools of readers in North America, books in English are booming in India (via The National)
Tomorrow will see a new piece added to the vampire canon with the release of Jon Merz’s The Kensei. Ahead of the release and our review tomorrow, we had a chance to catch Jon on email for five questions about his ninjitsu background, the work that went into The Kensei and the possible futures of the vampire genre.
Jamaica Plain native Merz is a USAF veteran, ninja and expert in close quarters hand-to-hand combat; as well as author of the Lawson Vampire Series and Rogue Angel adventures.
Q: Some of the B3 team grew up watching Sho Kasugi ninja movies, not the most accurate picture of the ninja. So, let’s clear this topic up – define ninjitsu and what does ninjitsu mean to you?
A: Ninjutsu is a comprehensive system of self-protection encompassing pretty much every aspect of combat and strategy that developed over the course of a thousand years of history across several nations and cultures. As such, it a relatively unique martial arts system in its approach to real world problems. Ninjutsu, to me, is the path I have chosen to walk to make my life and the lives of my loved ones better, more prosperous and peaceful. That sounds really New Agey, though, so the simple answer is I happen to love the challenging training and the fact that it makes my life a very cool place to be.
Q: What kind of research went into The Kensei?
A: About twenty years of Ninjutsu training! When I wrote The Kensei, it was before, during, and after my trip to Japan in February 2003 when I took the 5th degree black belt test administered only (at the time, now others administer it) by the Grandmaster himself. My experiences with this art, and the many challenges it offers the practitioner, are all contained within the pages of The Kensei. That’s what makes this book so special to me, as the author – there’s a ton of my world in it.
Q: Reading your action scenes, particularly close quarters, have unusual authenticity. Talk about how you create these scenes and how your background aids in writing them.
A: As a result of my background in the military, and in private sector security, and of course, real life, I’ve been in a lot of hostile situations. I know what it’s like to suddenly confront a knife-wielding attacker who doesn’t show you the blade a la Hollywood, but keeps it by his side until he makes his move. I’ve felt the rush of adrenaline and the dump afterwards when you make it through a terrible encounter. I’ve had to battle back tunnel vision during a fight. All of those things go into the creation of a fight scene. In some ways, the physical techniques are almost secondary. Almost. There’s a lot of stuff that happens during a violent encounter. Having a background where I’ve (fortunately or unfortunately as the case may be) been involved in stuff like that, I can draw on my experiences to help flesh out the scenes in the book – to make them vividly realistic for the reader without slowing the pace down. And since I’ve been studying fighting for more than half of my life, I can describe the physical side of things pretty well at this point. And if I need to, I can go into the dojo I study at and ask my training partners to work through some stuff with me. They’re great about helping out!
Q: Outside of your work, what is your take on the current vampire genre? Is the genre in good shape and where do you see it going in the coming years?
A: At the risk of offending the Twilight fans, I’m tired of the same old woe-is-me-I’m-immortal BS. I hope the vampire genre goes two ways: 1 – more hardboiled, like my stuff and 2 – scary as hell. Enough with the angst. Enough with the sparkles. Vampires terrified me as a child. My first nightmare I can ever recall having was of the Count from Sesame Street. That’s how ingrained vampires were in my consciousness. But there are plenty of ways to explore the genre without copying what’s already been done. I hope more authors do that.
Q: Describe the writing community in metro-Boston and how (if at all) it influences your work?
A: You know, I honestly don’t know a whole lot of them. I’ve had the good fortune to meet Robert B. Parker, Dennis Lehane and Chris Mooney and think the world of them. I used to interact with more writers at the annual Christmas party at Kate’s Mystery Books in Cambridge, but tragically that store is no more. There are tons of aspiring writers coming up and like everything else New England – there’s a helluva lot of talent around here. But I don’t necessarily think I’m influenced by the community around here at all. And I don’t network all that much, preferring to reach new readers instead.
Tilting at windmills, a concept we all know, battles of the mind or futile quests. The work birthing the idea, The Adventures of Don Quixote, was first published this week in 1605. Quixote is considered by many one of the great novels of all time, and possibly the first modern novel. Published in two parts, first in 1605 and then completed in 1615, Quixote was Miguel de Cervantes most influential work, considered the literary parent of modern Spanish.
We are all familiar Quixote, Sancho Panza, Dulcinea and his broken down Rocinante. But what do we know about Cervantes in the years before penning this superbly influential book? Son of a surgeon, Cervantes road to Quixote came after the writer took the martial life.
The writers we know today have starkly different paths to publishing than their earlier compatriots. In the case of Cervantes he took to the sea as a soldier, shot and paralyzed, ending up a prisoner of war, many years before crafting the work about an old man who deludes himself of long dead chivalry.
Part of the Spanish naval infantry, Cervantes took part in the historically decisive 1571 Battle of Lepanto, the first major defeat of the Ottoman Navy. Racked with fever, it’s said Cervantes fought alongside his fellow sea soldiers valiantly. Shot three times, Cervantes would receive a wound that paralyzed his left hand.
Later Cervantes believed the loss of the use of his left hand benefited his determination in crafting Don Quixote.
Cervantes would serve four more years, seeing battles around the Mediterranean, but his life course would be altered dramatically again when sailing off Catalonia. Cervantes ship was interdicted and seized by a Barbary Corsair. For five years Cervantes would be enslaved in Algiers, only finding his freedom when his ransom was paid through a Catholic order created to free Catholics held in non-Christian lands.
Cervantes time in captivity is believed to have been the pivotal moment in his psychological development as a writer. During the Algiers time, Cervantes would spend most of his time in banos, prison houses, living in conditions that bore deep emotional and physical holes into the writer.
Don Quixote is considered by many illustrative of the mental scars suffered by Cervantes. Also, it could be said the madness which consumes Quixote is a manifestation of Cervantes mental imprisonment for five years.
So, if you read Don Quixote again, many years removed from perhaps the obliged reading of high school or college, put a different lens to it. Realize that the man who wrote it saw the glory of the sea and literary achievement; as well as the hell of war and brutal imprisonment.