Saturday, July 30, 2011

The Magic Band–UK Tour Announced

Magic Band 1

Behind the success of the 2009 appearance at the All Tomorrow’s Parties festival in Minehead, UK the legendary Magic Band , of Capt. Beefheart  fame has announced an 7 date tour of the UK and Ireland. So far the only dates that are locked in are November 30 in London at Scala, Friday December 2 in Dublin, Ireland at the Button Factory. December 3 at Kazmir in Liverpool,

Then they will be welcomed back at  All Tomorrow's Parties - ATP 2011 on December 4 in Minehead, UK where you can also see Fleet Foxes, Joanna Newsom, Yann Tiersen, The Mountain Goats, Low, The Fall, The Apples In Stereo, Sebadoh, Superchunk, Thurston Moore, Tinariwen, Lost In the Trees, Olivia Tremor Control, Jeff Mangum, Boredoms, and 14 more bands, check the ATP web site for specifics.

Then on December 5 they will be at The Pavillion in Falmouth, on the  7th, they’ll be playing at Rescue Rooms, Nottingham, UK and winding up in Leeds on the 8th at The Irish Center.

This years lineup, which features John ‘Drumbo’ French on vocals, is the same as in 2009.

The lineup is: Denny "Feelers Rebo" Walley, Mark "Rockette Morton" Boston, John "Drumbo" French with Eric Klerks, Guitar, and Craig Bunch, Drums. City of Refuge

Rumor has it that John Drumbo French is currently working on new music. Originals that just can’t help sounding like what the band may have done in the past. This will be a follow up to 2008’s  critically acclaimed Proper Records release of  City of Refuge. If Drumbo is true to form, it will be  Magic Band members playing on the new album.

You can get updates on The Magic Bands MySpace Page.

Also, for fans and rock historians alike, look for John French’s definitive biography on the band, “Beefheart:Through The Eyes Of Magic”  It is not only a great history of one of the most creative and controversial bands from the 60’s and 70’s but a handbook for anybody contemplating starting/joining a band. 

BeefheartThis is as intimate and as detailed a book about Captain Beefheart (and, specifically, the making of TROUT MASK REPLICA and other classics) as we are ever likely to get. EYES OF MAGIC is almost the exact opposite of LUNAR NOTES, which had some interesting material but raised more questions than it answered. The one drawback, and it's a big one, is that this is the UNADORNED TRUTH about what went on in the Trout House and elsewhere in "Beefheart Land," and it's not a pretty picture. If you love Beefheart and his music, your feelings may be somewhat more complicated after reading. One positive is that Frank Zappa comes off much better than expected (certainly more so than in his recent bio) and compared to Don seems almost saintly.


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Copyright © 2011 Robert Carraher All Rights Reserved

Article first published as The Magic Band Announces 2011 United Kingdom Tour on Blogcritics.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Slaughterhouse-Five banned by US school | Books |

It’s unconscionable that any educator would ban any book, but to ‘pick on’ a classic that vilifies death and shows the dirty side of war that doesn’t make it into the media is crazy. Further, for a supposed professor at a higher education institution to call it out because it "contains so much profane language, it would make a sailor blush with shame". makes you wonder whether said educator has actually spent time with a) Sailors and b) young people. I have got news for you Mr. Scroggins, you can hear much worse hanging out at a skateboard park or watching “8 Mile”.


Slaughterhouse-Five banned by US school

Kurt Vonnegut's celebrated second world war satire censored along with teen novel Twenty Boy Summer by Sarah Ockler

Kurt Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse-Five and young adult novel Twenty Boy Summer by Sarah Ockler have both been banned from a school curriculum and library in a Missouri school following complaints from a local professor about children being exposed to "shocking material".

Ockler's novel, which tells of a girl's summer romance as she attempts to get over the death of her first love a year earlier, is being removed from the school curriculum and library in Republic, Missouri, along with Kurt Vonnegut's classic novel Slaughterhouse-Five. The ban follows a complaint from Wesley Scroggins, a professor at Missouri State University, who wrote in a column for a local paper last year claiming that Vonnegut's novel "contains so much profane language, it would make a sailor blush with shame". He said that Ockler's book, described by Kirkus Reviews as a "sincere, romantic tearjerker", "glorifies drunken teen parties, where teen girls lose their clothes in games of strip beer pong", and laid into Laurie Halse Anderson's acclaimed novel Speak, which he felt "should be classified as soft pornography".

Slaughterhouse-Five banned by US school | Books |


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Thursday, July 28, 2011

“The Last Witness” by Joel Goldman


Slick as a politicians handshake. Crafted in the spirit of the best hardboiled thrillers of the golden era yet thoroughly modern and so up to date you could be watching it on the evening news. Darklast-witness-ebook-200 and brilliant sexy and full of surprises.  The Last Witness by Joel Goldman is classy and stylish noir at it’s very best.

When Jack Cullan, the spiritual heir to "Boss Tom" Pendergast’s Kansas City political machine winds up dead, Attorney Lou Mason takes it personal. His best friend, Wilson “Blues” Bluestone is arrested and charged with the murder. “Blues” says he is innocent and Mason believes him because “Blues” has never told him a lie. But Blues threatened the dead man in front of witnesses and his fingerprints and DNA are found at the scene.  Blues ex partner, KC Detective Harry Ryman is convinced he did it but he has carried a grudge for Blues for years. Harry thinks Blues got away with murder once for killing a woman in a drug bust. Blues left the KCPD after that shooting, and Harry, who happens to be Mason’s aunt, and surrogate mother’s romantic companion, has been out to nail him since. 

Mason soon realizes that in order to prove Blues innocent, he’ll have to find the real killer as he suspects that everyone from the prosecutor to the judge to the cops don’t want to dig for justice because they just might uncover more dirt than what covers a grave. All of KC’s major players are on edge – from the Mayor, ex quarterback and hometown hero Billy Sunshine to suspected mobster and casino owner Ed Fiora . They know that Cullan kept file’s on everyone that allowed him to pull the strings on the political, legal and business community of KC. 

Mason is quickly approached by the mayor’s chief of staff, Amy White with an offer to find and turn over the files, other offers soon follow. Devastatingly sexy Beth Harrell, the gambling commissioner that was in Blue’s night club with Cullan the night before the murder wants photos that Cullan had of her that may just have convinced her to grant Fiora his gaming license. Fiora suspect’s he was in the files and doesn’t want the methods of how he got his gaming license granted, nor his questionable finances exposed. Additionally, if he had the files, he could control the political machine. White wants to protect her boss, Cullan’s secretary, Shirley Parker wants to protect her dead boss, Leonard Campbell, the DA says he wants to prosecute those exposed in the files, but Mason suspects he wants the political muscle the files would bring him. Mason suspects the files will also expose cops on Cullan’s payroll, but which cops? His aunts lover Ryman, his partner Carl Zimmerman, Toland,the officer that arrested Blues and seems to have more than an interest in justice. Then there’s Donovan Jenkins the ex favorite wide receiver for Billy Sunshine and now KC beer distributor. Throw in an endless supply of receptionists named Margret running interference for their bosses and everyone wants the files to stay lost or  to possess them for their own purposes, which they just may be willing to kill for – if they haven’t already.

The cards are stacked against Mason. And so are all the players. The evidence against Blues seems to be overwhelming. The police and prosecutors have stopped looking for any other suspect, whether because of grudges against Blues or political pressure from those with things to hide. It becomes evident in Mason’s quest to prove Blues not guilty, that there are many who would kill again or go to other extremes to send Blues to the death chamber.

Mason’s only allies are Mickey Shanahan the dead-beat PR man, card sharp, computer hacker and conman who rented offices from Blues but never paid rent. Then there is Rachel Firestone, the lipstick lesbian reporter who Mason is sexually attracted to. Rachel was on the quest for the files before Cullan was killed. The chase leads across the frozen streets of KC in the midst of an ice storm that rivals the players own cold cold hearts. From Tom Pendergast’s old office’s – recently the headquarters for “The Elect Billy Sunshine” campaign across the street from Cullan’s own offices to the bedrooms and boardrooms of Kansas City’s rich and powerful.

With prose that are as precise as the workings of a slot machine and dialog that is quick, biting, hardboiled and smart, Joel Goldman has crafted a master piece in this, the second Lou Mason book. The pace is unrelenting, the plot perfect as it twists through the frozen streets. The characters are realistic and excellently developed and the story will pull you in like a gambling addiction. Oh, and the “reveal” will astound you, you’ll never see it coming and yet all the clues are there…I warn you, don’t miss this book, newly rereleased in eBook format. But if you do get it you might as well preorder Cold Truth, the third book in the series because you’ll be hooked on Lou Mason and Joel Goldman.cold-truth-200

Joel Goldman is a former Kansas City attorney who lives in Leawood, Kansas – a suburb of KC. For insight into what makes Joel such an excellent writer of crime fiction, follow his blog, What’s Shakin’ . He is the  author of the Edgar and Shamus nominated Lou Mason thrillers and and has released the ebook versions of these books beginning in June with MOTION TO KILL. His newest novel, STONE COLD, featuring Public Defender, Alex Stone will be released later this year. He explores his movement disorder - tics, through his character, former FBI Agent Jack Davis, in a series beginning with SHAKEDOWN. Catch my short story, FIRE IN THE SKY in the anthology TOP SUSPENSE: 13 CLASSIC STORIES FROM 12 MASTERS OF THE GENRE. Stay tuned for what's shaking in his world with his newsletter and blog and follow him on Twitter and Facebook.

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Article first published as Book Review: The Last Witness by Joel Goldman on Blogcritics.

Copyright © 2011 Robert Carraher All Rights Reserved

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

James Lee Burke “Feast of Fools” Due in September


Feast of Fools
"The dialogue scenes, along with the action sequences, the South Texas landscape and the indelibly conflicted characters make you want to give Burke a medal."
-- Kirkus Reviews


Good news for fans of James Lee Burke, who has been called Americas greatest story teller. Feast of fools is due out on September 27th.

Here’s the description from Simon & Shuster:

Sheriff Hackberry Holland patrols a small Southwest Texas border town with a deep and abiding respect for the citizens in his care. Still mourning the loss of his cherished wife and locked in a perilous almost-romance with his deputy, Pam Tibbs, a woman many decades his junior, Hackberry feeds off the deeds of evil men to keep his own demons at bay.

When alcoholic ex-boxer Danny Boy Lorca witnesses a man tortured to death in the desert and reports it, Hack's investigation leads to the home of Anton Ling, a regal, mysterious Chinese woman whom the locals refer to as La Magdalena and who is known for sheltering illegals. Ling denies having seen the victim or the perpetrators, but there is something in her steely demeanor and aristocratic beauty that compels Hackberry to return to her home again and again as the investigation unfolds. Could it be that the sheriff is so taken in by this creature who reminds him of his deceased wife that he would ignore the possibility that she is just as dangerous as the men she harbors?

The danger in the desert increases tenfold with the return of serial murderer Preacher Jack Collins, whom The New York Times called "one of Burke's most inspired villains." Presumed dead at the close of Rain Gods, Preacher Jack has reemerged with a calm, single-minded zeal for killing that is more terrifying than the muzzle flash of his signature machine gun. But this time he and Sheriff Holland have a common enemy.

Praised by Joyce Carol Oates for "the luminosity of his writerly voice," James Lee Burke returns with his most allegorical novel to date, illuminating vital issues of our time—immigration, energy, religious freedom—with the rich atmosphere and devastatingly flawed, authentic characters that readers have come to celebrate during the five decades of his brilliant career.

You can preorder the book by clicking on the following the link above (highlighted) or on clicking on the book cover. But if you just can’t wait that long, here is a short video of the author talking about his audio books and Will Patton, the narrator:


 Mystery Pack (3 books) 50% Off with FREE SHIPPINGMystery Pack







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Weekly Deals - Great books up to 50% Off plus FREE SHIPPING

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

"Bob Dylan Is Joined By Mark Knopfler For European Tour"

      Two Legends Together

Dylan And Knopfler

European music fans are getting a special treat this fall as Mark Knopfler, the founder and legendary lead guitarist of Dire Straits fame joins Bob Dylan on tour.

Dedicated music fans that are old enough to remember Dire Straits first self titled album will remember that Mark Joined Bob Dylan as producer and guitarist for  Bob Dylan's Infidels album. Knopflers “modified claw-hammer blues” finger style of playing his custom Schecter Stratocaster guitar makes him not only one of the greatest guitarists of the rock era, but a unique stylist.  His virtuosity brings an especially blues sound to Bob Dylan’s music. Since the breakup of Dire Straits, Knopfler has kept a low profile on the rock scene preferring to release more folkie and country sounds such as found on the albums All the Roadrunning (with Emmylou Harris), Kill to Get Crimson and Get Lucky.

Mark Knopfler and band will perform at all shows in Europe.

Europe: VIP Ticket Package includes:
Top priced reserved seat or General Admission Standing (with Early Entry Option)
Exclusive tour merchandise gift
Collectible Laminate
PRICE from £150/€167 per person including VAT/Taxes

Please check your local listings for on-sale dates and information. More shows will be announced.
Please visit this page regularly for updates.

It is indeed a treat two hear these legends together and the dates for tickets throughout Europe can be found at Knopflers web site.

The Dirty Lowdown

Article first published as Mark Knopfler Joins Bob Dylan for European Tour on Blogcritics.

Copyright © 2011 Robert Carraher All Rights Reserved

Thursday, July 21, 2011

How Did They Do That?: How Cell Phone Hacking Works Read more:

If you haven't been to your own funeral yet, you have most likely heard of the "News Of The World" phone hacking scandal. Once you get past all the talking heads indignant responses and discussions on "Press Ethic" and Journalists co-opting law mobile-phone-being-stolenenforcement and vice versa you may wonder just how they did that. Where did they find the techys with the savvy to actually hack phones, and could it happen to you. The answer is surprisingly low tech, and that anyone with a Voice Mail account could be a target. Here's how it works:

Tactic #1

1. The phone company provides an external number customers can use to access their inbox.

2. The service gives access to the caller dialing in if it recognizes that the customer is calling in from an approved phone number, like their cell phone.

3. The loophole in this system is that the service makes this determination by reading the incoming caller ID.

4. Crooks can easily spoof a user’s Caller ID using Voice Over IP and some software.

Tactic #2

1. Most of the time, the service offers an additional barrier of protection by requiring that the person calling in enter a four digit password.

2. The problem is that users are initially given a default password, which they can change once they access the system.

3. Typically, the default password is the last four digits of the person’s phone number.

4. Customers often don’t take the extra step to create a personalized password. Hackers know this and are more than happy to take advantage what can amount to be a serious lapse in judgment.

Tactic #3

1. For the sake of convenience, another way users can often access their voice mailbox is by dialing their own number and entering a secure password.

2. Hackers, too, have a way of mimicking this sequence, but it requires that they first have somebody occupy the user’s phone line.

3. While the line is being held up, a call to that number — with the correct spoofed caller ID – goes directly to voice mail .

4. To get past the security password barrier, hackers would sometimes reset the code by calling the provider’s customer service department and successfully impersonating the user.

Don't you feel safer knowing that? probably not. This highlights just how easy it is and why it is such an easy target for both hackers and anyone else that thinks ethics is a Greek island.

here's a few ways that you can protect yourself, although there is no fool proof, 100% way to prevent or protect against such trespasses.

First, and foremost always activate a personal security code and use strong passwords, see here for what a strong password is. Start there and you can rest a little easier at night. On the other hand, if you have children you just may want to try some of these methods out just to see how easy they are. But that wouldn't be a Greek island, now would it?

The Dirty Lowdown

Article first published as How Did They Do That: How Cell Phone Hacking Works on Blogcritics.

Copyright © 2011 Robert Carraher All Rights Reserved

Monday, July 18, 2011

Fun and Games by Duane Swierczynski

More a thriller on speed than a noir tale. Breathless action that jumps off the page likeFun and Games the scenes left on the cutting room floor after “Sin City” was edited.  The premise stretches belief, the dialog is disjointed and at times forced and over the top, the plot slow to develop and the character development happens over the course of the novel if at all. But the pace, ahh, the pace. It never lets up as we jump from one scene to another like flash backs after a bad drunk. The pace and the nonstop darkly comic book violence has the characters leaping from frying pan to fire and back again so often and so fast you’ll forget which they are in this time.

This is the first in a trilogy, the sequel Hell & Gone due out on Halloween and the final book in the Hardie Trilogy sometime next spring. The hero of the story is Charlie Hardie who starts off a likeable looser with a touch of hardboiled patter. He is a house sitter whose only ambition is to get to the next job, settle down with a bottle of booze and some old movies and drift off into a haze. A tragic past is hinted at as is a one time association with the Philadelphia Police. In the plane flying to L.A. for his next gig he is overly protective of a carry on bag which we are led to believe holds the only items Hardie treasures in the world. We never do learn what’s in the bag and this among other loose ends made the book unsatisfying to me.

Mean while, on a dark, early morning run through the Hollywood Hills we meet Lane Madden an almost- starlet who is nakedly modeled on Lindsay Lohan in that she has just had a melt down caused by her excessive actions following almost-success. She is being pursued down a windy road by a car that is seemingly trying to kill her. She confronts the driver at a lighted intersection and he seems nothing more than a fan. But she is soon the victim of a staged accident on the 101 and fleeing for her life through the sage brush and canyons below the Hollywood sign.

Flash back to Hardie who arrives at the clients house only to find the keys aren’t in the mail box, so he climbs over the roof, encounters a nude sunbather in the neighbors yard, drops down to the deck hanging precariously over the steep hill side and breaks into the clients house, locates and disarms the alarm and soon is impaled with a mic stand by Lane Madden who is hiding out from “them”. “Them” is slowly revealed to be “The Accident People” an international group of assassins that kills people off by setting up accidents….

From there the action never really stops as Hardie is revealed to have been a cop in Philly, well, sort of. More of a consultant really and after some tragic happening, he has hit the lam and the booze. It’s another third of the book before specifics of the tragedy are revealed, and this is another unsatisfactory point for me. Any empathy I could develop for Hardie was so long delayed that instead of empathizing I was just relieved that it was FINALLY out in the open. As Hardie and Lane slowly start coming clean with each other many implausible plot devices – a hidden closet, secret tunnels, bad guys surviving miraculous falls, “The Accident Peoples” motives and employers, deadly poison gas that merely knocks out people with deviated septum's, cell phone jamming in an exclusive neighborhood that goes unnoticed and nudist assassins to mention just a few.

Admittedly, I like my crime fiction and even my thrillers a little more realistic, but then again, maybe I’m getting stodgy in my old age. I think the book would have worked marvelously as a Graphic Novel as the scenes seemed to play out like the aforementioned “Sin City” by Frank Miller; a series of darkly shot, over the top and overly violent bits and pieces with any fleshing out of the characters often left until the body bag is zipped shut. The pace did hold my interest though, and as Vince Keenan observed  on his review of the same novel,

 Duane Swierczynski’s impressive accomplishment with Fun & Games is to turn the entire damn book into a setpiece, an epic free-for-all in which you can scarcely catch your breath.”

I will read the second installment if for no other reason than to finally get the rest of the story on Hardie and to find out where the marvelous cliff hanger twist of an ending winds up.


Duane Swierczynski is the author of several crime thrillers, including Severance Package(St. Martin's Press), which has been optioned by Lionsgate films, Secret Dead Men, Swierczynski’s crime fiction debut, was published in 2005 . He also writes the X-Men spinoff Cable for Marvel Comics as well as IMMORTAL IRON FIST. He lives in Philadelphia with his wife and children. Swierczynski has written six non-fiction books, including This Here’s A Stick-Up: The Big Bad Book Of American Bank Robbery (Alpha, 2002) and The Big Book O’ Beer (Quirk, 2004).

This Galley was provided by Mulholland Books for review purposes.


The Dirty Lowdown


Copyright © 2011 Robert Carraher All Rights Reserved

Borders Bookstore Will Eliminate 11,000 Jobs, Close 400 Remaining Stores


Bankrupt Borders Group Inc said it has canceled its auction and will sell itself to a group of liquidators.

Borders announced the decision on Monday, saying it was not able to reach a deal for a going-concern sale to salvage its 400 remaining stores and 11,000 jobs.

Borders Bookstore Will Eliminate 11,000 Jobs, Close 400 Remaining Stores

Earlier today it was announced on MediaBistro on GalleyCat that Books-A-Million was interested in some Borders stores, apparently that deal is out the window.

Books-A-Million Reportedly Interested in Some Borders Stores

Last night Borders' deadline to secure new bidders passed without offers from new parties. According to a Reuters report, the bookselling chain Books-A-Million is considering buying "less than 50″ of Borders' stores.

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Amazon now renting Kindle Textbooks - eBookNewser

It had to happen eventually.

Amazon now renting Kindle Textbooks

By Nate Hoffelder on July 18, 2011 3:42 PM

Today Amazon announced that it was going after its last textbook competitors: the rental companies (Vitalsource, Chegg and others). College students can now rent Kindle textbooks from Amazon for any length of time between any length of time between 30 days and a year.

Amazon now renting Kindle Textbooks - eBookNewser

Sunday, July 17, 2011

One Man, One Murder by Jakob Arjouni

A Kayankaya Thriller                  


To rescue a kidnapped prostitute, Kemal Kayankaya must face some of Germany’s most depraved and dangerous criminals. Fortunately, some of them are his friends. . . .

Hard-boiled prose, lean, clean dialogue, hard bitten as Sam Spade, cynically cool as Philip Marlowe. Kemal Kayankaya is a worthy successor to the great noir characters and hard boiled detectives of the past. This isn’t a parody or a cheap imitation, Jakob Arjouni has created the real thing. Beautiful!

Jakob Arjouni tells a tale that could have come off of the mean streets of Chandler’s Los Angles or Hammet’s San Francisco, or Chicago or New York or Boston but it takes place in Frankfurt, Germany – the dullest town in Germany, except it isn’t. One Man, One Murder was originally written in 1991 as Ein Mann, ein Mord. Melville International Crime provided me with this Galley of the translation and after reading it, it’s jumped to the top of the list of ‘Best Surprise Book’ of the year. In an original voice, Arjouni tells such a true story and he tells it so well, maintaining tension throughout, dialogue that is  clever, witty, and sad and an atmosphere that James M. Cain would have been proud of.

Kemal Kayankaya is the orphaned son of a Turkish garbage collector, a German Citizen, born and bred. But, because he is of Turkish extraction he encounters suspicion and racism wherever he goes. He meets them with a smart assed attitude and a cynical, jaded tongue.

A piece of dialog while Kemal is trying to rent an office:

“Well then, Mr. Kayankaya, I see you are a private investigator. That’s an interesting name…Kayankaya.” “Not really that interesting. Just Turkish.” I see.” The saccharine content of his smile increases; his eye slits are no wider than a razor’s edge.”Turkish. A Turkish private investigator? What do you know…I hope you don’t mind my asking, but – how come you speak such good German?” “It’s the only language I know. My parents died when I was a child, and I was raised by a German family.” “But – but you are a Turk? I mean ---“ “ I have a German passport, if that makes you feel better.”…..”Mind showing it to me?”

And this from when he meets his new client:

“How did you find me? “ He looked startled….”You must have checked the Yellow Pages. But why Kayankaya, why not Muller?” “Because she is Thai, and I thought…” “You thought Thailand and Turkey both start with a ‘T’?” “How could I have known you’re a Turk? On the contrary, I expected – but…”

…They visit exhibitions in New York and go on safaris in Africa: they smoke hashish in Cairo, eat Japanese food, and purpose to teach democracy to Muscovites; they are “international” down to their Parisian underwear – but they are not able to recognize a Turk unless he is carrying a garbage can under his arm and leading a string of ten unwashed brats.


This book would have worked so well as just a comic take on the American Hardboiled detective transplanted to Europe in the late 80’s; as a cynical updating of Chandler’s Philip Marlowe, but Arjouni had loftier goals. And he achieved them in spades. Sam Spades. It is Arjouni’s willingness to confront serious social issues and display them in the light of a hardboiled/noir novel, with an avoidance of clichés, intelligent observation, and dialog that is both realistic and acid-tinged. And to do it all without preaching. He kind of reminds me of the great Walter Mosley in that regard.


Another piece of dialog where Kayankaya channels Sam Spade in his violent reaction:

“What’s your name, nigger?”   So, I said to myself, this must be their guy with the communications skills.I took the cigarette out of my mouth and studied its glowing tip for a moment. His beery breath struck my face. I looked at him and said very quietly: “Listen, pig. Another word out of you, and I’ll see to it that you won’t be able to stand up, sit down, or fuck – ever again.”

And then a few seconds later, he switches to the cynical humor:

(Mrs. Steiner, a bureaucratic receptionist who has just refused to serve or speak to Kayankaya because he appears to be a minority gives an explanation and then Kayankaya says…) “If you are not telling me the truth…” “I beg your pardon…” Despite her obvious fear that our argument might turn into a free for all, Mrs. Steiner looked indignant. “ I am a civil servant!”


This particular story opens when Kayankaya  takes on a new client, Herr Weidenbusch, who has discovered that love is never roses and springtime when your girlfriend is a Thai immigrant that has been kidnapped by a gang of pimps. This isn’t the first time either, and the simpering Weidenbusch, with his pink eyeglasses and colorful wrist watches, who rebels against his mother at the age of 40 or so, wants to get her back. He has “paid her debt” to the brothel that sponsored her, and paid for a fake passport so that Weidenbusch can marry her, and now they apparently want more. Kayankaya recognizes a name from the place where Sri Dao Rakdee worked.  “The Lady Bump”, a shady bar and house of prostitution in Frankfurt’s “Eros Center’. Slibulsky is a low life, depraved and shady criminal, a degenerate gambler no loyalty and a broken arm. He just blew a fifty thousand mark inheritance at a roulette table and is working off a further debt to the owner of the establishment. He is also a ‘friend’ of Kayankaya. The kind of friend you hope the other guy has. But Slibulsky has his ear to the ground of the Frankfurt underground and soon opens some doors to dark places where Kayankaya seeks Sri Dao.

Along the way Kayankaya encounters deadly crime bosses, indifferent and crooked cops, violent muscle men, a landlord who wants his money, an illegal immigrant ring that sells the hopefuls fake visas and then disposes of them – the hopefuls, not the visas, a miasma of bureaucratic and social injustice and racial prejudice that mirrors Americas own. The air of contemporary Europe’s racial politics and inane nationalism are the maze that Kayankaya navigates in his quest but he is well equipped with a sharp mind, a sharper tongue and meets these challenges with a cynical, smart-assed attitude and an anti-authority front. There are enough seeming dead ends, as almost any detective novel requires, but instead of having them …dead end, Arjouni has them turn into very interesting ‘small mysteries’ or stories inside the story.Jakob Arjouni Arjouni is a consummate professional. His prose are efficient with a minimalists approach that Hemingway would love, but not so minimalist that he doesn’t manage to fully develop the characters without using stock, stereotypes, and he makes them way too real. He also paints scenes both colorful and dark about the underbelly of a city and maintains a pace that lingers just enough in all the right places.

The only criticism I have for this otherwise master work is that it took to damn long to get it translated and released in English. Well, Melville International Crime has fixed that, and thank you very much.



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Copyright © 2011 Robert Carraher All Rights Reserved

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Friday, July 15, 2011

Thrillers: 100 Must Reads edited by David Morrell & Hank Wagner


“The Thriller is the oldest kind of story – rooted in our deepest hopes and fears, for ourselves, those we love, and the world around us.”

Whether you are an aspiring author, a seasoned veteran of the New York Times Best Seller lists, whether your books have been turned into multi 100 million dollar movies or you are just an avid reader, creative writing major, history student or just want to know more about what makes a thriller popular and good, this book is indispensible and should set on your bookshelf next to the dictionary, thesaurus and book of quotations. If you occupy any of the above categories, or many more, then this book is a Must Have not just a must read. There are few “writers books” that stand the test of time but “Thrillers: 100 Must Reads” not only will stand the test, it spans the history of the Thriller from Beowulf to The Bourne Identity, Dracula to Deliverance and The Heart of Darkness to The Hunt for Red October.

Writing a review on this wonderful book is akin to writing a book report on a book report. It’s a daunting task as the authors who wrote these essays are amongst the best in the world in any genre and the giants and grand masters of the Thriller. When the publishers, Oceanview Publishing first provided me with an ARC of this book I almost took a pass. These guys are an impossible act to follow. And if I think it is daunting for me, the authors of the essays found it daunting as well. Any “Best of…” list is hard for one person to agree on, let alone a large number of people. David Morrell states in the preface, the authors collectively had a hard time deciding how far back in history to go in compiling the list.  Here’s a peek at just a few of the contributing authors: David Baldacci, Steve Berry, Sandra Brown, Lee Child, Mark Terry, Max Allan Collins, Jeffery Deaver, J.A. Konrath,Tess Gerritsen, Gayle Lynds, Katherine Neville, Michael Palmer, James Rollins, Joseph Finder, and MJ Rose….this sounds like at least half of my personal library. And these esteemed authors didn’t just draw titles out of a hat and write quick little blurbs. It quickly becomes apparent that not only did they struggle with the selections and nominations, but each and everyone of them wrote what amounts to a synopsis for a thesis in a masters class in creative writing.

And the stories, ah the stories. You could just print out the table of contents, use it as a shopping list and go to the bookstore. Stack these titles on your coffee table, arrange them nicely on your office book case or devote a few shelves in your library to them and anybody In the world would think you are a serious reader and book lover.

I couldn’t possibly review each essay, but here are just a few bits and pieces, some are observations on my favorite books, others study some of the literary and writing elements that were introduced to the genre and were revolutionary at the time, still others are observations that I found engrossing on books I may never have considered as key points in the genre such as Lee Child’s finding parallels between Plutarch’s Theseus and Ian Flemings Dr. No. Theseus is a Prince, James Bond a Commander, Ariadane is Honey Rider, the ball of string is Q’s arsenal of weapons masquerading as everyday objects. Even the underground locations are obvious as is Bond’s character; his thumbing his nose at authority, his stubborn willfulness. Is he a bold innovator  or a hot head?

Then there is David Liss on Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe; Liss points out that before DeFoe, most prose or at least prose that survived until today was prose romance (not to be confused with Romance Novels) but novels focusing on action but with “stock characters” – knights rescuing maidens in distress from giants and ogres. Starting with Defoe, novels began to be injected with psychological realism and the characters became more rounded and complex. Liss also points out the Robinson Crusoe was probably the first novel to use what today we would call “tradecraft” something familiar in almost all spy novels today. It relates how Crusoe learned to make clothes, build shelters, dry food for storage, in other words, how he learned to survive using things in his limited environment, how he learned to improvise. He (Liss) also points out the pioneering use of a plot twist when Crusoe discovers the footprints on the beach. Until this point in the story the island is deserted.

Gary Braver has a nice piece on Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein pointing out that most people today only know this story from the many movies that have covered it. Gary Braver is the author of eight critically acclaimed suspense novels. He brings to the conversation the observation that Frankenstein has the claim of being the progenitor of modern Science Fiction and opening the world of Thrillers to that type of story , but that Frankenstein also has something to say about “our hopes and fears” for the world around us being at once a spectacular Thiller and a manifesto of the dilemma’s of living in our scientific age expressed in our modern anxieties over genetic engineering, nanotechnology and other innovations. Katherine Neville, her work, The Eight, happens to be one of the  modern Thrillers included in the book, does a marvelous job on Edgar Allan Poe’s The Narrative Of Arthur Gordon Pym Of Nantucket. Poe was both the inventor of the detective story and raised horror fiction to literary heights introducing concepts like alliteration and assonance as plot devices. He also used literary techniques like revealing something critical to the audience that the characters themselves don’t know. Specifically the use of irony in Arthur Gordon Pym comes off with chilling effect. By the way, the inclusion of Neville’s The Eight made me especially happy as it is at once a historical thriller and a modern-day thriller jumping from the French Revolution to the early 1970’s and using mathematics, chess and computers as devices and exploring European History, Charlemagne, and the French Revolution as back drops. When I first read this book I had to wonder if Neville had stolen my diary of deep dark fantasies. It seemed custom made for me, like someone had taken all my interests and neatly wrapped them in one book that is historical puzzle piece, mystery, post modern thriller, and a dazzling debut novel. I have reread this book at least 5 times over the past 20 years or so.

I must cover one more thriller from the 19th century in the interest of keeping this review as short as my “book-horny” self will allow. Douglas Preston’s essay on Wilkie Collin’s Woman in White. WiW created a new genre in fiction, namely the “sensation novel” the precursor to the 20th century thriller. It deals with extreme and disturbing subjects: murder, violence, bigamy, insanity, kidnapping, illegitimate children, dark legal maneuverings, adultery, forgers, fraud and dark family and personal secrets. And it does it not in some far away land but in a seemingly placid, peaceful English domestic life. It also introduced the “pithy” chapter structure – each chapter ends with a cliff hanger -- of modern thrillers, but the novel also is laid out (having been serialized in many parts) almost like a modern TV drama in episodes.  And it caused the same type of anticipation amongst the readers with giant lines forming at news stands to snatch up the next issue and the Prime Minister of England was said to have canceled important appointments in order to read it when it came off the presses. The novel is also quite famous for having a second chapter that contains one of the most memorable in all of fiction, one that Charles Dickens himself called “one of the two most dramatic descriptions in all of literature.” It is a chapter that every thriller writer should study. You’ll just have to buy Thriller, to see just what that chapter is, or even read the original. And if those aren’t enough “firsts” for any novel, it also contains a strong, intelligent, loyal and courageous – almost an anti-Victorian – female protagonist.

Moving into the 20th century, Janet Berliner covers John Buchan’s The Thirty-nine Steps, the novel which is not only a master piece of modern fiction but also single handily launched the “chase novel”. The novel strongly influenced writers such as Eric Ambler, Geoffrey Household, Ian Fleming and most novelists and screenwriters whose main character is accused of a crime of which he is innocent and must run from the authorities and catch the bad guy to prove it. Mark T. Sullivan writes on Doc Savage: The Man Of Bronze who could be considered the grandfather to The Man of Steel and all the super hero’s that came after. Then comes a master work of noir. James M. Cain’s The Postman Always Rings Twice examined by Joe R. Lansdale. As Joe put it, Cain…”was the master of hard-boiled prose, lean, clean dialogue shiny as a new dime. He wrote like a demon on holiday, sexed up and hung over, and he changed the landscape of literature as surely as Ernest Hemingway or William Faulkner or Raymond Chandler.” Cain’s prose has a kind of working man’s muscular poetry, soaked in sweat and hormones so ripe you can almost smell it. The book opens, “They threw me off the hay truck at noon.” and stands as one of the best first sentences in fiction. Ali Karim is, Assistant Editor at Shots eZine, a contributing editor at January Magazine & The Rap Sheet and writes for Crimespree magazine, Deadly Pleasures and Mystery Readers International and is an associate member of The Crime Writers Association [CWA], International Thriller Writers [ITW] and the Private Eye Writers of America [PWA]. Ali covers Eric Ambler’s The Mask of Dimitrios. Most of Ambler’s fiction were political/espionage novels where the protagonist was rarely a professional spy. Dimitrios is different than the average, action packed, plot driven thriller. Indeed, it has very little action until the end. Instead, Ambler changed the game and made the thriller a character driven novel and it’s more the use of dark imagery and description that makes the reader shiver. Ambler’s villains are not only fleshed out as real people but they are the kind of people that generate so much havoc in the world even now. If you don’t believe me, just open the paper and read about politicians and business men in the headlines.

There are many, many more excellent essays it this must have book. When I first received it I expected it to be more promotional of the authors and the publishers so you can imagine my surprise in finding a book that was both scholarly and deeply interesting as well as insightful to the nuances of the authors art and craft. There is not a weak essay in the entire book. Geoffrey Household’ The Rogue Male is excellently, and perhaps rightly covered by David Morrell, one of the editors of this book and the acclaimed author of First Blood, which introduced us to Rambo who owes his existence to Household’s book. MJ Rose, one of my favorite authors, does a great job writing on Vera Caspary’s Laura , Duane Swierczynski’s coverage of Richard Stark’s (AKA Donald Westlake) The Hunter (which also has an alias – Point Blank) and Mark Terry’s take on Six Days Of The Condor written by James Grady are particularly moving, as is John Lescroart on Brian Garfield’s Death Wish.

So, whether you are a literary scholar wanting to study the fictional tools, devices, plot pieces, pace, character development that are the craft of the great thriller writers, or you are an aspiring author, or indeed hitting the best seller lists and just need a great book to round out your reference books. Or perhaps you are just an avid reader and want to know more about what makes a classic a classic, or even a casual reader that might want to delve into something written when your father or grandfather were young, I couldn’t recommend this book enough. I warn you though, this one is a keeper. You’ll want to pick it up from time to time and go back and read one of these essays just for entertainment from time to time.


The Dirty Lowdown

Copyright © 2011 Robert Carraher All Rights Reserved





Monday, July 11, 2011

Official Google Blog: The first Google eBooks-integrated e-reader: iriver Story HD


Google has teamed up with device manufacturer iriver to release a Google branded eReader. The iriver Story HD will be first eReader integrated with the Google eBooks platform. Not exactly a Kindle Killer, but an option. No word yet whether it's support Kindle/Mobi. It basically eliminates the Cord needed to transfer Google eBooks to, for instance, your Nook since it is WiFi capable.

The Wi-Fi enabled device has a 6″, high res, eInk screen and a QWERTY keyboard. It goes on sale this coming Sunday at Target for $139.99, the same price as the Kindle.

The first Google eBooks-integrated e-reader: iriver Story HD

7/11/2011 06:00:00 AM

(Cross-posted from the Inside Google Books Blog and the Google Commerce blog)
Starting this coming Sunday, July 17, the iriver Story HD e-reader will be available for sale in Target stores nationwide and on The iriver Story HD is the first e-reader integrated with the open Google eBooks platform, through which you can buy and read Google eBooks over Wi-Fi.

The iriver Story HD, which retails for $139.99, is slim and lightweight with a high-resolution e-ink screen and a QWERTY keyboard for easy searching. It includes over-the-air access to hundreds of thousands of Google eBooks for sale and more than 3 million for free. With the Story HD you can now browse, buy and read Google eBooks with your e-reader through Wi-Fi, rather than downloading and transferring them from computer to e-reader with a cord as you can already do with more than 80 compatible devices.
We built the Google eBooks platform to be open to all publishers, retailers and manufacturers. Manufacturers like iriver can use Google Books APIs and services to connect their devices to the full Google eBooks catalog for out-of-the-box access to a complete ebookstore. You can also store your personal ebooks library in the cloud—picking up where you left off in any ebook you’re reading as you move from laptop to smartphone to e-reader to tablet.
In December, Google eBooks launched with the ability to read Google eBooks on any device with a modern browser, on Android and iOS devices using the Google Books mobile apps, through our Chrome Web Store app and on compatible ereaders. Since then, we’ve added new retailers—growing to include more than 250 independent bookstores—and made Google eBooks available in Android Market. We’ve also extended our affiliate network and updated our family of Google Books APIs.
The Story HD is a new milestone for us, as iriver becomes the first manufacturer to launch an e-reader integrated with Google eBooks. You can learn more about the Story HD on the iriver website.
Stay tuned for more Google eBooks-integrated devices to come. If you’re a manufacturer interested in integrating your next device with the Google eBooks e-commerce platform, please contact us at
Posted by Pratip Banerji, Product Manager, Google Books

Official Google Blog: The first Google eBooks-integrated e-reader: iriver Story HD

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

“The Craig’s List Murders” by Brenda Cullerton

“Charlotte had been getting away with murder for years. Most interior decorators-desecrators, she called them-got away with murder.”

So opens the satirical murder spree through New Yorks Upper East Side.Craig's List MurdersWicked, delightfully evil and so much fun. I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry…or buy a fireplace poker and a yoga matt and join Charlotte in her quest. Both cynically funny and edge of the seat suspenseful reading. Probably the only crime story you’ll read this year that involves a yoga matt, Birkin Bag Syndrome and Private Jet Neck Syndrome. You have to be filthy rich to get those afflictions. “It was almost funny, that the most selfish people on the planet did nothing but talk about empathy.” And Charlotte Wolfe was moved to do something about it.

Charlotte scours Craigslist to find deals on expensive jewelry, antique silver candle stick holders, $15,000 Toto toilets and other luxury items. But more importantly,  Charlotte is on a mission to rid the planet of these women that live in a world that mistook trend for truth, fame for faith and money for meaning. It was a land of the professional time-killer where a woman’s only job was to amuse herself to death. Oh yeah. And to redecorate. So Charlotte hunts the women whose daughter think it is fashionable to have anorexia and shop lift books on Buddhism,  freeing them from a useless and empty life as Charlotte sees it. She is doing them a favor. She is also relieving her stomach cramps and head aches and striking back at her nagging hateful mother.

In the mean time she has to appease her friends who complain about $100 surcharges while wanting to move a swimming pool ten feet to the right to improve the view. Women who spend $55,000 on curtains and make their ice with Figi water. Charlotte is also wooing a Russian oligarch and deciding on whether to become his lover as well as haunting Kinkos to make the contacts necessary to cleanse the earth of these woman who insist that the only thing in their many homes that is contrived is themselves.

Brenda Cullerton“The Craigslist Murders” is such a fun read. A fresh voice in the world of crime fiction that I sincerely hope to hear more from. The author, Brenda Cullerton is a writer for the fashion, beauty, and interior design industries. She lives and works in New York City. She’s got a tattoo of an open book on her left ankle and has written one of funniest books of the year. 

The Dirty Lowdown

Wondering what other bibliophiles are reading? Please visit my book-loving friends at:Cym Lowell’s Book Review Party

Copyright © 2011 Robert Carraher All Rights Reserved