Monthly Archives: January 2012

‘Narcotrafficante’ Tale Worth Reading

I’m enjoying T. Jefferson Parker’s IRON RIVER, a violent yet poetic account of the international drug war between the United States and Mexico.

Parker is a great storyteller but he’s also an acute student of political science, and has a keen grasp on the forces that lead to a flow of guns south across the border (Parker’s titular “Iron River”) and the flow of narcotics north to the States.

I love it when authors deftly blend their fictional tales into the realpolitik world in which we live.

IRON RIVER is a fine read.

Keep Calm and Carry On

Ms. King, MacBook Air in hand, oversees her city and her stories with equal style.

Portrait of the novelist in her aerie: Writer Katy King hammering out her next whodunit, overlooking the city of Portland.

I saw her first, guys.

Return to Smoke & Bone

Portland author Laini Taylor this week unveiled the title of the sequel to her wonderful fantasy novel, DAUGHTER OF SMOKE AND BONE.

As a fan of Taylor’s writing, this is sanguine news for me. Remember, please, that “sanguine” means both “hopeful” and “bloody.” I think that pretty much sums up my emotions about her 2011 novel.

Book 2 in this lovely and violent trilogy, to be released later this year, will be DAYS OF BLOOD AND STARLIGHT.

A mock-up for Book 2 in Laini Taylor's fantasy trilogy

If you haven’t read the story of Karou, the part-time art student in Prague and full-time messenger for a family of demons, go do so right away. The novel is romantic and lush and dangerous and stunning.

Learn more at Taylor’s delightful website.

I’m Justified in Watching This Show

On television, I look for great writing first and foremost. That gets me long before a super-star actor or exotic locale.

I currently am madly in love with “Justified” on the FX channel (although I admit I watch it on Netflix and thus am a full season behind). The scripts, by Graham Yost, novelist Elmore Leonard, V.J. Boyd and others, are whip-smart, hilarious, shocking and subtle. The dialog is pitch perfect.

The series is based on a short story, “Fire In The Hole,” by Leonard and features hero U.S. Marshal Rayland Givens, who has returned to his roots in rural Kentucky and who has a tendency to shoot folks in the midst of his investigations. The cast includes the chameleon-like Timothy Olyphant (“Deadwood,” “Damages”) and Nick Searcy (the brilliant character actor whom you’ve seen in a thousand things, including the under-rated cult favorite “Seven Days,” 1998-2001).

A promotional still from FX Channel's series "Justified," which is in its third season.

The superb is dialog, delivered in deadpan and as dry as a played out coal mine Kentucky dialect. Examples:

Nick Searcy’s Chief Art Mullen, to Rayland: “I tell you to do one simple thing – refrain from screwin’ the witness in your own shooting (investigation) – and you can’t even do that!”

Rayland, when questioned by Internal Affairs about missing money. “Just ’cause I shoot the occasional person doesn’t make me a thief.”

That’s David-Mamet-level dialog. Wonderful.

Audience participation: What are your nominees for the best dialog in a television series (time is not a factor; go as far back into the television archives as you’d like).

Why Tinker with a Tailor-made Performance?

The best film casting for a mystery – ever! – was Alec Guinness in the 1979 BBC mini-series adaption of John Le Carré’s “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy.”

Alec Guinness as the iconic spy and detective George Smiley (1979).

I say “the best” because I had read the novel, “Tinker, Tailor,” first, and as always, I constructed a visual avatar in my head for the primary characters. But for the next three decades, whenever I think of the protagonist, George Smiley, I see Alec Guinness in my mind.  He completely reprogrammed my brain to become my visual persona of the famed character.

Even in the other two books in Le Carré’s “Karla Trilogy” – “The Honourable Schoolboy” and “Smiley’s People” – Alec Guinness populates my mind’s eye. Despite the fact that I read all three novels before the mini-series aired in the States.

That’s impressive.

Audience participation time: Which actors or actresses best personified characters from your favorite mystery or thriller adaptations?

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