Dodgers

Dodgers

Mysterious Book Report No. 258

by John Dwaine McKenna

Regular readers and fans of the Mysterious Book Report are all aware by now that our primary focus is to encourage reading by discovering new and unknown crime fiction writers who show a lot of promise . . . someone an enthusiast can read, enjoy and grow with for years to come.  An author you can tell your friends about.  An author you'll learn from with each new novel, because they've created a fictional world unlike anything in your own personal life experiences.  We don't always hit that sweet spot, but when we do, they're authors we'll all follow for th
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Night Work

Night Work

Mysterious Book Report No. 257

by John Dwaine McKenna

Author David C. Taylor hit the literary ground running last year when his first crime-fiction novel entitled Night Life, featuring tough-guy Michael Cassidy was first published.  Cassidy's a classic, Phillip Marlowe kind of detective, working the mean streets of 1950s New York City at a time when the Cold War—with it's potential threat of nuclear Armageddon—was at its zenith, and Senator Joseph McCarthy was building his power base. Now, Taylor's back with the second installment of his Michael Cassidy series, and he's hit the sweet spot agai
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Cambodia Noir

Cambodia Noir

Mysterious Book Report No. 256

by John Dwaine McKenna

Nestled between south Thailand and south Vietnam is the small Asian nation of Cambodia.  Fronted on the Gulf of Thailand and bisected by the Mekong River, the capitol city is Phnom Penh.  It's a transit point for the opium-producing region known as the Golden Triangle.  As such, it's a lawless place where corruption is rampant, drugs are plentiful and the only thing that's cheaper . . . is life itself.  The sex trade is open, vigorous and widespread; the army, the police and the politicians are all corrupt, constantly battling for mo
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Off The Grid

Off The Grid

Mysterious Book Report No. 255

by John Dwaine McKenna

In today's hi-tech world, it's  almost impossible to get away from all the must-see, must-have, must-buy  devices that  didn't even exist  as recently  as fifteen or twenty years ago . . . gizmos we didn't need or want until relentless, incessant, slick and highly persuasive advertising coupled with good old-fashioned peer pressure convinced us otherwise . . . and Apple stock went from twelve to somewhere around a thousand dollars per share before splitting.  The world got wired.  Now, thanks to all the above, we can know in an instant when our rel
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The Second Life of Nick Mason

The Second Life of Nick Mason

Mysterious Book Report No. 254

by John Dwaine McKenna

Author Steve Hamilton’s Alex McKnight series won two Edgar Awards, a CWA Steel Dagger for Best Thriller, and captured a boatload of other major crime fiction distinctions, including two listings on the New York Times notable books of the year roster.  Pretty impressive, to say the least.  Now, he’s begun a new series with an anti-hero protagonist that’s creating an earthquake in the Crime Fiction genre, and a stampede amongst the most recognizable authors in the world for the right to say “I saw him first.
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The Fireman

The Fireman

Mysterious Book Report No. 253

by John Dwaine McKenna

When I had the pleasure of hearing this weeks author being interviewed on NPR a few days ago, he said something that hit me right in the funny bone.  And although I admit to having a warped sense of humor, maybe it’ll resonate with you too.  When the interviewer asked him if perhaps folks had had enough of doom lately, without missing a beat, he said, “There’s only two kinds of people in the world: Those who read dystopian novels . . . and wimps.”  Having never thought of myself as wimpy, I went to the book pile of potential MBRs, and s
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Fever City

Fever City

Mysterious Book Report No. 252

by John Dwaine McKenna

The joke’s on me .  . . Some weeks ago I was queried by a publicist for Europa Editions in New York City: “Would I review a noir novel of theirs if they sent a copy?”  I noted that it had a September release date and said, ‘Sure,” then got an ARC (advance review copy) in the mail a few days later.  I placed it in the reading stack so the MBR would come out mid-August, 2016 just before the release date of the book.  So far . . . so good, as they say in melodrama, and at the exact right time for my plan to c
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My Sunshine Away

 My Sunshine Away

Mysterious Book Report Special Edition No. 6

by John Dwaine McKenna and Lora Brown

This is our second Special Edition featuring Lora Brown, and she’s picked a talented first-time author with a compelling story that unfolds over a number of years.  It’s a mystery about a crime that takes place one quiet summer evening when the narrator was a teenaged boy, infatuated with a neighborhood girl named Lindy . . . who was raped by an unknown assailant while on her way home from track practice. My Sunshine Away, (Putnam, $26.95, 285 pages, ISBN 978-0-241-01188-1) by M.O. Walsh was named Bo
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City of Rose

City of Rose

Mysterious Book Report No. 251

by John Dwaine McKenna

Is there anyplace on earth after you’ve grown up living in New York City . . . or anyplace you’d rather be . . . after growing up and living in New York City?  It’s a conundrum for Ash McKenna, the self-described human wrecking ball and unskilled, but productive private investigator who’s damned good at finding people, then messing it up after that because of his “bent moral compass,” which allows him to stomp the bad guys into piles of blood and broken bones.  (Honestly, no relation, but my kind of guy . . .)  Ash is the n
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The Mulberry Bush

The Mulberry Bush

Mysterious Book Report No. 250

by John Dwaine McKenna

Somewhere in the big junkyard that passes as my mind, there’s a snippet of a country song that goes . . . “I thought I’d been loved and I thought I’d been kissed, but that was before I met you . . .” which I’m going to rip off and paraphrase to introduce this week’s Mysterious Book Report.  It goes like this: I thought I’d read all the great spy novels, but that was before I read the man many consider to be the greatest spy writer of all time.  His name is Charles McCarry, and his works are known for their accurate historic
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Pacific Burn

Pacific Burn

Mysterious Book Report No. 249

by John Dwaine McKenna

With a renewed focus on Asia of late, it seems as though there’s news and happenings on an hourly basis from the region.  China, North and South Korea, Viet Nam, Cambodia, Burma, Taiwan, Tibet . . . and of course Japan, have all featured in the news recently . . . and why not?  The majority of the world’s population lives there, so it’s vitally important for the rest of the world to know, and pay attention to, what’s happening there, and acquire an understanding of their history and culture as well. And hey . . . don’t get in an uproar with
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Bull Mountain

Bull Mountain

Mysterious Book Report No. 248

by John Dwaine McKenna

This week’s author had a metric ton of A-list crime fiction writers heaping praise on his debut novel when it first appeared in the fall of last year.  The likes of C.J. Box, John Connolly, James Ellroy and others were all highly complimentary of his work in their endorsements . . . and rightfully so, for it became a runway hit . . . which I am chagrined to say I couldn’t find the time to review.  But now it’s coming out in trade paperback form, giving me a shot at redemption.  I won’t miss it a second time . . . it’s just t
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Spoils of Victory

Spoils of Victory

Mysterious Book Report No. 247

by John Dwaine McKenna

Late last year an authentic, entertaining, and exciting new detective series hit the bookstores and became an instant success.  Part crime fiction, part historical fiction and part military fiction, the novel featured a U.S. Army Chief Warrant Officer (CWO) named Mason Collins.  He’s a Criminal Investigations Division (CID) Officer in Occupied Germany just after the Third Reich’s defeat and unconditional surrender.  In his debut entitled Ruins of War,  CWO Collins was on the hunt for a sadistic, cunning and demented serial killer in
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The Ex

The Ex

Special MBR No. 5

by John Dwaine McKenna & Lora Brown

This week’s Mysterious Book Report is the second in our special series which features Lora Brown, who picked the novel to review and gave it her stamp of approval.  After reading her notes and the novel, I’m in absolute agreement. The Ex, (Harper Collins, $26.99, 283 pages, ISBN 978-0-06-239048-6) by Alafair Burke is by far and away the best of her eleven novels and one million or so words of crime fiction.  It’s a murder mystery that starts with the throttle wide-open on the first page and never lets up until the conclusion.  When the
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Where It Hurts

Where It Hurts

Mysterious Book Report No. 246

by John Dwaine McKenna

If you’re a fan of hard-boiled noir--as I am--you’re gonna love Gus Murphy.  He’s the beat-down, used up, cynical, angry, divorced, grieving, cuckolded, bitter and weary ex-cop who’s tough as a ten year old steel-toed boot, but still as altruistic at heart as the first day he pinned on a policeman’s badge.  He’s the newly-minted character from the three-time Edgar nominated pen of the man who’s been called the Poet Laureat of noir . . . Reed Farrel Coleman. Where it Hurts, (Putnam/Penguin Random House, $27.00, 353 pages, ISBN
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The Yid

The Yid

Mysterious Book Report No. 245

by John Dwaine McKenna

The legacy of Joseph Stalin, the ruthless dictator of the Soviet Union during the 1930s, 40s and early 50s, is one of famine, endless bloodshed and tens of millions of deaths due to malfeasance, malevolence and gross mismanagement.  It was an era of terror for ordinary citizens . . . a time when neighbor spied upon neighbor and a careless word of criticism could result in torture, imprisonment in a Siberian gulag, or even execution in some cases.  It was an epoch that dripped with blood and remained cloaked in mystery.  But now that’s changing.  And than
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Purgatory

Purgatory

Mysterious Book Report No. 244

by John Dwaine McKenna

Once the envy of the entire world soon after the millennium, the Celtic Tiger has died in Ken Bruen’s 2013 novel Purgatory, (Mysterious Press, $24.00, 278 pages, ISBN 978-0-8021-2607-8) and been replaced with an Ireland that can only be described as circling the economic drain.  With jobs non-existent, crime is rampant, the young professionals are emmigrating and real estate has sunk to such low prices that vulture investors are busy buying distressed property from the near bankrupt lending institutions as fast as the paperwork is finished.  In
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The Sundown Speech

The Sundown Speech

Mysterious Book Report No. 243

by John Dwaine McKenna

Memorial Day weekend is the traditional start of the summer vacation season, so we’re kicking it off with a couple of short, fast reads that are perfect ‘beach books’; novels you can finish in one or two afternoons while working on your tan or just chillin’ in the shade . . . The Sundown Speech, (Forge/Tom Doherty Associates, $24.99, 216 pages, ISBN 978-0-7653-3736-8) by Loren D. Estelman is the twenty-fifth installment in his Amos Walker series, and somewhere in the neighborhood of his seventy-fifth published work to date, so th
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Jack of Spies

Jack of Spies

Mysterious Book Report No. 242

by John Dwaine McKenna

Those of us who follow the news and current events can’t help but feel at times that the world is ‘going to hell in a handbasket,’ to quote an old refrain . . . but those of us who study history know it’s all happened before, and the world’s still here, and still full of crisis.  Case in point: In the first ten years of the twentieth century, three wars were fought . . . the Spanish-American in Cuba and the Philippines, the Boer War in South Africa between Britain and the Orange Free State, and the Mexican Civil War where tens of thousands los
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The Last Dawn

The Last Dawn

Mysterious Book Report No. 241

by John Dwaine McKenna

Unless you’ve recently vacationed in Costa Rica or Belize, the geography of Central America is pretty much terra incognita for most of us who live north of the Mexican border and speak English as our mother tongue.  But back in the 1980s, the Central American nation of Nicaragua was a focus of attention by the US government as the communists—backed by the Cubans—fought the dictator Anastasio Samoza and deposed him.  But then, the fight moved to neighboring El Salvador, where it became so vicious that “Even the Grim Reaper needs an
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A Song of Shadows

A Song of Shadows

Mysterious Book Report No. 240

by John Dwaine McKenna

As a long-time fan of crime fiction and the other-worldlyness of the supernatural genres, I’ve been fascinated by the work of Irish writer John Connolly and his Charlie Parker series (which is a blending of the two into something wholly new) ever since I became acquainted with his work several years ago.  He’s never disappointed me and his newest, A Song of Shadows,  (Emily Bestler Books/ATRIA- Simon & Shuster, $26.99, 436 pages, ISBN 978-1-5011-1828-9) by John Connolly—the fifteenth in his Charlie Parker series—is no exception
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The Lightkeepers

The Lightkeepers

Mysterious Book Report No. 239

by John Dwaine McKenna

An exceptional new authorial voice was brought to our attention by some friends in New York City a few weeks ago.  They know we’re always looking for exemplary first novels by as-yet unknown writers to introduce to our MBR audience—and although we don’t always agree—this time they’re spot on!  With thanks to Ian and all the crew at Otto Penzler’s bookstore, meet Abby Geni.  Her debut novel, The Lightkeepers, (Counterpoint, $25.00, 358 pages, ISBN 978-1-61902-600-1) is “A first novel of gripping, talon-sharp intensity . .
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The Friends of Pancho Villa

The Friends of Pancho Villa

Mysterious Book Report No. 238

by John Dwaine McKenna

LEST WE FORGET: A little over one hundred years ago, on March 9, 1916, a force of roughly 500 heavily armed men mounted on horseback and under the command of a cattle thief and bandit, rode up and out of the Sonoran Desert from Mexico.  Under cover of night, thirty miles North of the international border with the United States, they attacked, looted and burned the little town of Columbus, New Mexico.  They killed eighteen American citizens and wounded eight others before disappearing in the gray light of the false dawn
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Forty Thieves

Forty Thieves

Mysterious Book Report No. 237

by John Dwaine McKenna

Start reading any type of great fiction, and you’ll soon realize that it’s based upon conflict . . . because conflict creates drama . . . and drama is what captures, then holds, our attention and keeps us reading.  Why?  Because we humans are innately curious—we have to see what happens next.  In order to create conflict, there must be opposing forces such as good versus evil.  For example, Sherlock Holmes fought the criminal mastermind James Moriarty; the citizens of Middle Earth battled the armies of Orcs for possession of the one ri
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The Cellar

The Cellar

Mysterious Book Report No. 236

by John Dwaine McKenna

One of the great things about reading is when you figure out that it’s a voyage of personal discovery . . . and the more you read, the longer your journey into the unknown, which in turn takes you to places you couldn’t imagine before opening that book you’ve just  read  . . . and ever farther into the ocean of learning.  That’s as big a mouthful of metaphor as I’ve ever written.  But the truth is, I was inspired to it by this week’s MBR No. 236, the one with the short, humble title. The Cellar: A Novel (Penguin/Random House, $24
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Blood on Snow

Blood on Snow

Mysterious Book Report No. 235

by John Dwaine McKenna

It seems like we’ve been reviewing a lot of first time authors lately, so we’re going to toss in a few of our favorite A-listers over the next couple of MBRs and mix it up a bit.  First on the agenda is the “maddening-addictive,” critically acclaimed crown prince of Nordic Noir and a personal exemplar of ours . . . Norway’s most famous son . . . Jo Nesbo.  He’s the internationally celebrated best-selling author and creator of the drug-addicted Oslo detective named Harry Hole, whose serial exploits have been translated into dozens of languag
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Ruins of War

Ruins of War

Mysterious Book Report No. 234

by John Dwaine McKenna

Every time we start thinking that the deep, thoroughly-explored and fully-drawn well of World War II stories is about to run dry . . . along comes another author with a whole new, and fascinating point of view, coupled together with a totally original plot to disabuse us of the notion.  So move over Ken Follett, make way Alan Furst and brace yourself Philip Kerr—there’s a new WW II novelist come to town—and he’s got some serious wordsmithing chops to go along with one of the most interesting new detectives since Bernie Gunther was shanghaied into
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The Red Storm

The Red Storm

Mysterious Book Report No. 233

by John Dwaine McKenna

Writers, Agents, Book Publishers and Reviewers are always looking for something different, something a bit out of the ordinary; something that grabs their attention on page one and never lets go.  In today’s hyper frenetic literary world, where thousands of books are published every day, originality is a hard commodity to find.  In the mystery crime fiction genre for example, we now have tough guys and gals in the classic Raymond Chandler mode, but then there’s everything from the sublime to the utterly ridiculous . . . we have ghost detectives, va
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The White Van

The White Van

Mysterious Book Report No. 232

by John Dwaine McKenna

We’ve all been guilty, at some time or another, of staying at the party just a wee bit too long, or succumbing to the exhortations of one of our Good Time Charlie pals, to Awwwgoahead, one more won’t killya . . .  and awakened the next day feeling like hammered doggie doo-doo.  But it’s a pretty sure bet that not a one of us awakened more than a week later with a crooked cop, the FBI and the Russia mafia all searching for us.  For a young down-and-outer named Emily Rosario however, it’s a nightmare come true in this week’s MBR numbe
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Last Words

Last Words

Mysterious Book Report No. 231

by John Dwaine McKenna

There ought to be a special word for novels that have more than one theme, more than one story arc, and a tricky, psychologically-twisted plot interwoven with numerous backstories blended together into a complex and genre-defying literary stew that you just can’t put down once you begin reading. Something like Mindaffectus-Mystery or Terribullistawickedus-Thriller, which would easily identify smash-mouth, twisted pulse-pounders like Last Words, (Little, Brown and Company, $26.00, 420 pa
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Echowave

Echowave

Mysterious Book Report No. 230

by John Dwaine McKenna

As an avid and long time student of twentieth-century American and world history, I thought myself pretty well versed in World War II lore . . . until this week’s MBR disabused me of the notion.  That’s because it made me aware of the fact that everything I knew about the war was from the perspective of the main belligerents and the ground they battled on in North Africa, Europe, Russia, Asia and the Pacific Islands . . . I realized I’d never read much of anything from the point of view of the neutrals; those countries who hadn’t declared war.  Thro
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The Killing Kind

The Killing Kind

Mysterious Book Report No. 229

by John Dwaine McKenna

Every now and then, in the process of doing the Mysterious Book Reports, I run across a work that’s so well written and the author’s concept is so original that I become an instant fan.  This week’s novel is one of them.  It’s been published to rave reviews by the likes of Stuart Neville, Megan Abbott, Joseph Finder and David Baldacci; all of whom are best-selling thriller and crime fiction writers. The Killing Kind, (Mulholland Books/ Hatchette, $26.00, 306 pages, ISBN 978-0-316-25953-8) by Chris Holm is a high-octane thrill rid
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In A Dark Dark Wood

In A Dark Dark Wood

Mysterious Book Report Special No. 4

by John Dwaine McKenna and Lora Brown

I was over at Rhyolite Press the other day, talking with Ms. Lora Brown.  She’s the Publisher’s Rep., Executive Assistant and all-around Golden Gal who makes sure all our work gets done on time, sent where it’s gotta go and that our little world up here on the Mesa runs with the precision of a jeweled Swiss Chronometer.  As soon as we got the Hi, how-are-yas out of the way, Lora said, “Why aren’t you doing more MBRs featuring women? You hardly ever read books written by women.” I thought about it for a
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Run You Down

Run You Down

Mysterious Book Report No. 228

by John Dwaine McKenna

The word Haredi is literally translated from the Hebrew as “One who trembles in awe at the word of God.” The Haredim are “Members of any various Orthodox Jewish sects characterized by strict adherence to the traditional form of Jewish Law and the rejection of modern secular culture,” according to the Oxford Dictionary of English language.  The Hasidim, or Hasidics, are one branch of the Haredi and they are all, by definition, a cult.  Cults are dedicated, highly restrictive and generally patriarchal, or male-dominated in nature
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House of Echoes

House of Echoes

Mysterious Book Report No. 227

by John Dwaine McKenna

What do you do when your world gets turned upside down?  For most of us the answer is easy, but hard: you start over.  And that’s exactly what Ben Tierney, his wife Caroline, and their eight-year-old son Charlie decide to do after novelist Ben’s new book stalls out, Caroline loses her prestigious Wall Street banking job and Charlie is set upon by bullies at school, in the exciting new thriller House of Echoes, (Ballentine Books/ Random House, $26.00, 383 pages, ISBN 978-0-8041-7811-2) by first time author Brendan Duffy. Just as their
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House of the Rising Sun

House of the Rising Sun

Mysterious Book Report No. 226

by John Dwaine McKenna

At public events—book signings or speaking engagements for example—a question I’m often asked is Who’s your favorite author? And the answer is always the same . . . Although I’m informed by many crime writers—Michael Connelly, Elmore Leonard, James Elroy, Poe, Hemingway, Stephen King, Robert Parker, Ken Bruen, Nelson DeMille and Lawrence Block to name a few of the many I’m acquainted with—the author I’ve been most influenced by is James Lee Burke.  I’ve not only read every one of his books, I’ve read man
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The Animals

The Animals

Mysterious Book Report No. 225

by John Dwaine McKenna

Have you ever experienced poverty?  Not the sort where you bounced a check once, but chronic poverty—the type that is constant, relentless and crushing—the kind that destroys self respect, hope and confidence?  It’s a condition capable of wrecking relationships and driving some persons to acts of desperation and outright stupidity . . . and it’s one of the foundational themes of The Animals, (W.W. Norton & Company, $25.95, 309 pages, ISBN 978-0-87140-883-9) by Christian Kiefer, a musician, poet and writing instructor in Sacramento, C
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The Devil’s Share

The Devil’s Share

Mysterious Book Report No. 224

by John Dwaine McKenna

I have a theory about book covers that goes like this: The size of the author’s name is in inverse proportion to their fame.  In other words, popular best-selling writers like Michael Connolly and James Lee Burke will have their names emblazoned on the cover in much larger type than the title.  My favorite example of this is a new novel with TOM CLANCY, who’s been dead for quite some time now, taking up half of the cover space, followed on the bottom with a book title and another author’s name.  I’m assuming th
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The Hangman’s Game

Hangman’s Game

Mysterious Book Report No. 223

by John Dwaine McKenna

Kids everywhere dream of playing professional sports and being on a championship team.  I remember for example—back in the late ‘50s when we were all playing Little League baseball in the upstate New York hamlet of Grahamsville—that we had regular, and dead serious, discussions about whether we’d rather play for the Yankees or the Brooklyn Dodgers.  (The consensus was always the Yankees, by a mile!  We’re talkin’ Mickey Mantle, Moose Skowron, Whitey Ford, Gil McDougald, Yogi Berra and the most legendary manager of all time . .
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2015 Best Books of the Year

John Dwaine McKenna

2015 Best Books of the Year

It’s hard to imagine, even harder to believe, but the month of December—with all the various holiday seasons and gift giving—is here.  The calendar year is almost over and it’s time . . . time for our gift to all the readers out there . . . the best books of 2015 list.  Enjoy.  And we wish you a Merry Christmas, as well as good health, peace and prosperity for you and yours in the coming New Year! --JDM There were so many great mysteries, thrillers and noir novels published in 2015 that it was difficult to choose which ones to review . . . and even harder to winnow the list down to this dozen
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The Whites

The Whites

Mysterious Book Report No. 222

by John Dwaine McKenna

In a well-run, perfectly organized society, no crime would go unsolved, no criminal would go unpunished and no victim would go without redress.  Perhaps, if indeed such an exemplary place existed, there wouldn’t be any crime or criminals. . . . But of course we don’t live in anything close to a utopian ideal.  Our world is, in fact copiously supplied with miscreants of all shapes and sizes and their misdeeds range from the asininely petty to the horrific: crimes against all of humanity. . . . And although we’d like to believe otherwise, here
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The Stolen Ones

The Stolen Ones

Mysterious Book Report No. 221

by John Dwaine McKenna

It’s a helluva thing to take on a subject like the one we are about to . . . this being the Christmas season; a time when many of us are thinking about Peace on earth and goodwill to men . . . but the plain truth of the matter is that crime never sleeps and criminals don’t take vacations.  They’re vicious and opportunistic—always looking for an edge or a chance to do what they do—without being caught.  And so, we’re going to go ahead and review The Stolen Ones, (Putnam/Penguin, $26.95, 358 pages, ISBN 978-0-399-16553-5)
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Palace of Treason

Palace of Treason

Mysterious Book Report No. 220

by John Dwaine McKenna

Is there any doubt amongst well-informed people, that the tectonic plates of government spheres of influence are being shifted these days in ways we couldn’t even imagine as little as twenty-five years ago?  Would you have thought for example, back in 1990 when the Soviet Union was collapsing and the U.S. led coalition was busy kicking Sudan Hussein out of Kuwait, that by the year 2015 a resurgent Russia would be superseding America in critical areas of the globe as the dominant world power? Or that we would be sm
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Dragonfish

Dragonfish

Mysterious Book Report No. 219

by John Dwaine McKenna

Noir fiction “Emphasizes the human urge toward self-destruction,” and “Focuses on the villain,” according to crime fiction writers James Ellroy and Otto Penzler.  Its about the down-and-outers, the losers, the hopeless, unforgiven and abandoned among us who often spend their entire literary lives trapped in self-imposed prisons of the mind.  These characters—who attract and repel the reader—are endlessly fascinating at the same time, because they’re altogether alien to the rest of us who live ordinary lives.  Literature, c
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New Yorked

New Yorked

Mysterious Book Report No 218

by John Dwaine McKenna

Welcome!  This is the Mysterious Book Report, a weekly column where we talk about, analyze and feature books and authors dealing with Mysteries, Crime Fiction and an occasional Sci-Fi or Supernatural Thriller.  We’re going to discuss the latest in Spy Novels, dysfunctional, but brilliant detectives and all sorts of private eyes, shady lawyers, amateur sleuths and OMG she’s beautiful but tough as a broken heart, lady shamuses too.  And, hey—lest there’s confusion—these reviews will not only be of best-selling writers like James
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The Crossing

The Crossing

Mysterious Book Report No 217

by John Dwaine McKenna

It’s no secret that Michael Connelly is widely considered to be one of the finest crime writers working in America today.  With twenty-seven novels and sixty million copies sold worldwide he could arguably be called one of the top ten best-ever mystery and thriller authors in the world because, as my friend Dwight—a retired CSPD detective—said, “Connelly just gets it.” “Gets what,” I asked. “Cops,” he replied, adding after a moment, “cops and criminals both.”  Probably needless to say it, but Dwight, like me is a big fan of
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Goodhouse

Goodhouse

Mysterious Book Report No 216

by John Dwaine McKenna

This week is Halloween and the last of our first-ever Freak-Fest, celebrating novels with creepy characters, angels, demons, or things that creak, sneak and chomp in the dark of the night.  Send us your thoughts—social media, snail mail or eee mail—let us know if you liked it or not and why . . . maybe we’ll do it again. After all the supernatural mayhem of the past four weeks, we’re dialing it down to close out FF#1 by reading a thought provoking Sci-Fi novel with the ironic name, Goodhouse, (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $26.00, 320 pages,
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The Boy Who Killed Demons

The Boy Who Killed Demons

Mysterious Book Report No 215

by John Dwaine McKenna

Our Halloween Freak-fest continues this week with a YA (Young Adult) novel whose title says it all. His name is Henry Dudlow.  He’s “fifteen and a half and cursed.  Or damned.  Take your pick.”  The reason?  “I see demons,” in Henry’s own words. And so begins, The Boy Who Killed Demons, (Overlook Press, Peter Mayer Publishers Inc., $24.95, 288 pages, ISBN 978-1-4683-0960-7) by Dave Zeltserman.  It’s the story of an ordinary kid named Henry, age fifteen and a half, who’s been seeing demons since he turned thirt
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The Devil’s Detective

The Devil’s Detective

Mysterious Book Report No 214

by John Dwaine McKenna

We’re continuing with our Freak-Fest of weird reads in observance of Halloween, and you’d better brace yourself . . . because this one’s gonna be a wild ride.  So far this month, we’ve covered fallen angels and a shattered New York City where the survivors zonk out, choosing to escape reality in an alternate World Wide Web.  This week we’re going to Hell, where we’ll meet Thomas Fool. The Devil’s Detective, (Doubleday/Random House, $25.95, 358 pages, ISBN 978-0-091956-51-6) by Simon Kurt Unsworth is a debut novel that
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Near Enemy

Near Enemy

Mysterious Book Report No 213

by John Dwaine McKenna

Hey!  Remember Spademan?  He’s the shady character who has boxcutter, will travel and take out your enemies . . . as long as you can pay his fees.  He’s the anti-hero operating in a decimated New York City where a radioactive bomb has been set off by terrorists in Times Square.  Half the city scattered after that, but many others stayed.  The poor live a subsistence life, while the rich live in secure high-rises, zonked out on specially made beds in chemically-induced comas, dreaming  their lives away in the limm  . . . an alternate world
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The Wolf in Winter

The Wolf in Winter

Mysterious Book Report No 212

by John Dwaine McKenna

Can you believe it’s already October?  Where did the summer go? Oh well, fall is here now, and that means Halloween . . . which is giving Christmas a run for its money in the popularity department.  To commemorate the holiday, all our book reviews for the month will touch on the otherworldly, the supernatural, eerie, weird, creepy and dystopian.  So turn on all the lights and lock the doors, grab your silver amulet and runesword, and power up the Barcalounger.  We’re off to the nether-regions in search of action, adventure and the ghoulish wa
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Last Winter We Parted

Last Winter We Parted

Mysterious Book Report No 211

by John Dwaine McKenna

If the novel in this weeks MBR could only be described in one word, the one that comes to mind is inscrutable.  It is defined as mysterious, enigmatic or incomprehensible, and its synonyms include words such as: hidden, imprenetrable, and blank.  None of those adjectives however, will lessen your enjoyment of this short, but multi-layered and complex, murder mystery by one of Japan’s young, talented and award-winning crime fiction writers. Last Winter We Parted, (SOHO Press, $25.00, 216 pages, ISBN 978-1-61695-455-0) by Fu
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The Cartel (Part 2)

The Cartel

Mysterious Book Report No 210

by John Dwaine McKenna

PART TWO:

The Cartel, (Alfred A. Knopf, Random House/Penguin, $27.95, 617 pages, ISBN 978-1-101-87499-8) by Don Winslow has been published to rave reviews by the likes of: Lee Child-Sensationally good,  Harlen Coben-Absolute must-read, Michael Connelly-First rate thriller, James Ellroy-Stunningly plotted . . . to which I’m going to add my own humble accolades. The Cartel is a big, hefty novel that will give the reader a true picture of what’s ha
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The Cartel (Part 1)

The Cartel (Part 1)

The Cartel

Mysterious Book Report No 210

by John Dwaine McKenna

PART ONE:

Every now and then, a fictional novel comes along that informs as it entertains, and in doing so, the-word-of-mouth buzz about it creates a public dialogue of national significance where none existed before.  Uncle Tom’s Cabin, by Harriet Beecher Stowe, The Gulag Archipelago, by Alexander Solzhenitsyn and Ironweed, by William Kennedy are some examples that came to mind.  In order, they addressed slavery in America, political prisone
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Endangered

Endangered

Mysterious Book Report No 209

by John Dwaine McKenna

I’m going way out on a limb with our review this week, and it’s a scary proposition, because it concerns a subject that engenders a wealth of strong feelings . . . The Endangered Species Act.  It’s a concept that everyone has an opinion about—and pro or con—they all have validity.  We’re not going to try hashing it out here, except to point out that central planning (Federal Laws), can’t possibly work in all the jurisdictions (State Rights to local controls), because the situation on the ground isn’t the same in every instance.  T
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The Swimmer

The Swimmer

Mysterious Book Report No 208

by John Dwaine McKenna

International thrillers—good old spy yarns—have long been favorites of many readers around the world.  Personally, I never tire of them.  It seems however, that all the great espionage writers have passed . . . novelists like John Gardner, Ian Fleming, Robert Ludlum, Tom Clancy, Steig Larsson, Graham Green and Eric Ambler have all left us and perennial favorite John LaCarre is eighty-four and slowing down.  I’ve read and enjoyed all of those and others like them, who’ve brought us such memorable characters as James Bond, George Smiley and Jason B
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Green Hell

Green Hell

Green Hell

Mysterious Book Report No 207

by John Dwaine McKenna

It’s no secret that I have a Jones for contemporary Irish writers of crime fiction, reading and reviewing their work whenever possible.  Atop the pantheon in my opinion is a capricious, ever unpredictable, but always exceptional creative genius by the name of Ken Bruen.  He’s the author of thirty-some novels, a collaborator on several more, and the creator of one of the most memorable private investigators in all of crime fiction: the battered but undiminished, hopelessly alcoholic and addicted but never apologetic, always baffling but ever brilliant c
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The Organ Broker

The Organ Broker

The Organ Broker

Mysterious Book Report No 206

by John Dwaine McKenna

Are you aware that there are now more than 120,000 patients—folks just like you and me who are on waiting lists for organ transplants in America . . . or that there are three-hundred thousand more on kidney dialysis, but not yet on transplant lists . . . and shamefully, that here in America, twenty people are dying every day from renal (kidney) failure because of a lack of organ donors?  The average wait for a donated organ, eighty-five percent which are kidneys, is Seven Years.  People are dying before they make it to the top of t
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World Gone By

World Gone By

World Gone By

Mysterious Book Report No 205

by John Dwaine McKenna

Doesn’t it seem that the older we get, the more complicated our lives become . . . and the more complex our lives  . . . the more we yearn for the good old days when things ran better, life was somehow easier and more quaint?  A cowboy poet named Badger Clark summed it up nicely back in the 1920s when he wrote, . . . As progress toots its mighty horn, and makes your motor buzz, I thanks the Lord I wasn’t born, no later than I was . . . It’s part of a longer piece called The Rancher’s Lament, and one of my favorite stan
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Dry Bones in the Valley

Dry Bones in the Valley

Dry Bones in the Valley

Mysterious Book Report No 204

by John Dwaine McKenna

Are there any among us—living in Twenty-First Century America—who hasn’t heard of hydraulic fracking?  It’s commonly referred to as Fracking and everyone has an opinion about it, good or bad, pro or con, informed or ignorant.  It’s one of several hot-button words that polite folks don’t utter in social groups lest an argument begin, leaving bruised  egos  and hurt  feelings  in its wake.  You know what I’m talking about, don’t ya . . . Having grown up in the southern Catskill Mountains of upstate New York, whic
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The Fixer

The Fixer
Do you remember a public works scheme called The Central Artery/Tunnel Project?  It was started in 1982 and completed on the last day of December 2007.  It was projected to cost 2.8 billion dollars, the final tab amounted to some 14.6 billon and will ultimately cost the taxpayers about 22 billion after interest on the bonds is paid.  It was called The Big Dig. It took place in Boston, Massachusetts; it was the most expensive single highway project ever undertaken in America.  Plagued by leaks, engineering and design flaws, poor workmanship, substandard materials and criminality . . . the whole damn thing was mostly paid for with Federal tax dollars, you and I and every other American taxpayer will be paying for it for the
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Chain of Events

Chain of Events

Chain of Events

Mysterious Book Report No 202

by John Dwaine McKenna

  A thrill is defined as: a trembling sensation caused by fear or emotional shock, and a thriller as: a person or something that thrills . . . buckle that together with the word phenomenon, anything that can be perceived as a fact by the senses, and you come up with thriller phenomenon  . . . that which scares the bejeezus out of you because it appears to be so real.  It’s the perfect description of Mysterious Book Report number 202, a first novel by a fresh, new and exciting Swedish writer that’s ideal for your
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You Know Who Killed Me

You Know Who Killed Me

You Know Who Killed Me Mysterious Book Report No 201 by John Dwaine McKenna

I came late to the party for this week’s MBR author . . . he’d already written seventy-five novels by the time he made it to my radar screen . . . so shame on me. Now that he’s on my personal head-up display however, that oversight will get corrected in the coming weeks and months with more reviews of his work. The writer’s name is Loren D. Estleman, and he’s an absolute master of the craft. His latest work, You Know Who Killed Me, (Forge/Tom Doherty, $24.99, 233 pages, ISBN 978-0-7653-3735-1) is the twenty-fourth book in his Amos Walker series. Walker is irascible and world-

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The House of Wolfe

The House of Wolfe

The House of Wolfe Mysterious Book Report No. 200 by John Dwaine McKenna

Today is an individual milestone with this, the 200th Mysterious Book Report, and I wanted it to be something special to commemorate the occasion. The selection is personal, one of my favorite novelist who’s influenced any number of other writers and readers with his unique ability to transform the tough grit and blood of violence into passages of inspired grace. In other words, he thinks like the devil and writes like an angel. His talent is epic, yet he is relatively unknown, although deserving of a wider audience . . . a much greater one in my opinion . . . because he is simply the best American writer of histor
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Spark

Spark

Spark Mysterious Book Report No. 199 by John Dwaine McKenna

My Oxford Dictionary defines the word dystopia as an imaginary place where everything is as bad as it can be . . . which makes it the exact opposite of utopia, and an ideal descriptor for end-of-the-world type literature. Lately, with the popularity of works like The Hunger Games and Gotham, dystopian novels, movies and TV mini-series are all the rage in the literary arena where I operate; and where everyone—writers, agents and publishers are all looking for clues to the next mega-blockbuster and best-seller. Dystopian literature falls under the broad description of Science-Fiction, which asks us

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A Scourge of Vipers

A Scourge of Vipers

A Scourge of Vipers

Mysterious Book Report No 198

by John Dwaine McKenna

  In the food for thought department, here’s a juicy little nugget to chew on: Remember when gambling was underground, illegal and in the hands of organized crime?  Now it’s legal, and available most everywhere, but in my opinion, still in the hands of organized crime . . . called government.  Look anywhere in most states, and you’ll find government- run lotteries and government-controlled casinos with most forms of gambling including dice, cards, roulette, slot-machines, electronic poker or blackjack consoles and the soon-coming-to-
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Sniper’s Honor

Sniper’s Honor

Sniper’s Honor

Mysterious Book Report No 197

by John Dwaine McKenna

  Earlier this year, the world’s attention was riveted on a movie depicting the life and times of an American serviceman named Chris Kyle—the deadliest sniper in US Army history, with 160 confirmed kills.  Suddenly, there was a national debate about the morality of lying in ambush and killing enemy combatants at long range with high-powered rifles equipped with telescopic sights. The commentary reached a fever pitch when a well-fed, self-appointed keeper of the public morality named Michael Moore observed from the safety of his, no doubt w
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The Empire of Night

The Empire of Night

The Empire of Night

Mysterious Book No. 196

by John Dwaine McKenna

One hundred years ago, all of Europe was in the midst of what was then called the Great War, or World War I as we now know it.  It was the first fully mechanized war and the battlefield casualties were so great that they’re almost incomprehensible by today’s standards, due to the invention of new war machines like the belt-fed water-cooled machine gun; armor plated mobile gun platforms called tanks; gigantic artillery pieces mounted on railroad cars and moved by locomotives, that could hurl twenty-four inch shells for fifteen to twenty miles; submari
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Suspicion

Suspicion

Suspicion

Mysterious Book Report No. 195

by John Dwaine McKenna

There’s times, it seems, in everyone’s life when there’s just not enough money on hand to pay all the bills coming due.  The reasons for this, and the excuses, are many and various, but the bottom line is called insolvency . . . and no matter how badly you want to . . . you just can’t pay.  Panic sets in.  You’re trapped with no way out.  That’s the position single father Danny Goodman finds himself in when he’s unable to pay the tuition for his daughter’s exclusive private school in Boston. Suspicion, (Dutton Penguin Random 
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All Day and A Night

All Day and A Night

All Day and A Night

Mysterious Book Report No. 194

by John Dwaine McKenna

In the argot of the penitentiary—prison slang—an inmate saying that he’s “got all day” means that he’s serving a life sentence.  The term “all day and a night” means a life sentence without the possibility of parole, also referred to as life without and sometimes as LWOP.  I know these terms because I just finished reading, at the expense of all other activities planned for this winter Monday, All Day and A Night, (Harper Collins, $26.99, 352 pages, ISBN 978-0-06-220838-5) by Alafair Burke. Published to rave reviews by
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The Heist

The Heist

The Heist

Mysterious Book Report No. 193

by John Dwaine McKenna

One of the greatest tragedies in the world today—and God knows there’s no shortage of them to choose from—is the huge and ever-expanding loss of the world’s art heritage due to theft . . . crimes that are often underwritten by some of the globe’s wealthiest citizens and performed by teams of well organized professional criminals. The stolen treasures are priceless, irreplaceable, seldom recovered, usually underinsured and often located in poorly, or altogether unsecured locations . . . which makes them easy targets.  Add to this, the fact that the
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The Painter

The Painter

The Painter

Mysterious Book Report No. 192

by John Dwaine McKenna

I keep a couple of different stacks of books to be reviewed in my office—actually it’s our dining room table–at all times. The stacks increase and decrease as I read and review, and sometimes, a new novel gets inadvertently shoved down the pile . . . which means that it doesn’t get the attention it deserves in a timely fashion . . . and that’s the case, I’m sorry to say, with this week’s Mysterious Book Report number 192.  It’s a year late, for which I offer my most humble apologies to the author and all of you dedicated readers and fans o
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Prayer

Prayer

Prayer

Mysterious Book Report No. 191

by John Dwaine McKenna

Across the world today, debates are raging between believers and non-believers about the existence of God, and the power of prayer.  Radicals are trying to establish theocracies where everyone will adhere to strict religious law, as in Iran, where there’s no separation between church and State, because the church is the government.  It’s where religious authority figures interpret the words of God as written down by the prophet Mohammed and pass them on to the ordinary folk . . . who follow without hesitation.  And hey, don’t worry—this isn’t a rel
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MAUS

MAUS

MAUS

A Mysterious Book Report Extra

by John Dwaine McKenna

April is a special month . . . a time of celebration and renewal. Spring is sprung by now, the grass is greening, crocuses are peeping out of flower beds and signs of new life are everywhere.  April is the warm-up for summer—when the livin’ is easy—in the words of the old iconic tune by Dubose Heyward and George Gershwin.  But April is also a time of remembrance; the nineteenth day of the month is designated as Holocaust Memorial Day.  It commemorates the slaughter of more than six million souls: men, women, and children, nearly all Jews, in the Nazi dea
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All Our Names

All Our Names

All Our Names

Mysterious Book Report No. 190

by John Dwaine McKenna

This week’s MBR is a diversion from our usual focus on the mystery and crime fiction genres, to take a brief sojourn into literary fiction with a novel about a love affair and the intersection of two wholly different cultures during the 1970s—a time when the entire world was adjusting to a new reality. All Our Names, (Alfred A. Knopf, $25.95, 256 pages, ISBN 978-0-385-34998-7) by 2012 MacArthur  Foundation genius grant award winner Dinaw Mengestu, “is the story of two young men who come of age during an African revolution,” when they
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The Girl with a Clock for a Heart

The Girl with a Clock for a Heart

The Girl with a Clock for a Heart

Mysterious Book Report No. 189

by John Dwaine McKenna

Have you ever known someone who was so infatuated with another person, so head-over-heels and goofy in love that they would do anything—endure any hardship or humiliation—just to be around that other person . . . even when they knew beforehand that they’d be taken advantage of, or victimized . . . One.  More. Time? The Girl with a Clock for a Heart, (William Morrow/ Harper Collins Publishers, $25.99, 292 pages, ISBN 978-0-06-226749-8) by Peter Swanson is about just such a person—and the Femme Fatale
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Hold the Dark

Hold the Dark

Hold the Dark

Mysterious Book Report No. 188

by John Dwaine McKenna

There’s an ongoing battle between humans and nature that is eternal in character and inevitable in prospect; Mother Nature always wins in the end.  But that doesn’t mean we humans will ever stop trying—look anywhere on Earth and one can find places where men and women have built structures to keep out the elements. Hold the Dark, (Liveright Publishing / W.W. Norton & Company Ltd., $24.95, 203 pages, ISBN 978-0-87140-667-5) by William Giraldi takes place in the far north . . . in the extreme dark and cold of the Arctic winter . . .
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Invisible City

Invisible City

Invisible City

Mysterious Book Report No. 187

by John Dwaine McKenna

Have you ever thought about any of the subcultures which exist in the midst of what we call ‘normal’ or regular society?  Religious groups like the Amish, Mennonites, Hare Krishna’s, Islamist’s, Mormons, Sikhs and Hindus are all stitched into the  fabric of America  in plain sight . . . yet remain secretive and mostly unknown by all the rest of us.  They have a common desire to be left alone, allowed to live by their own rules and reject all values other than those they themselves espouse, rules which usually involv
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The Final Silence

The Final Silence

The Final Silence

Mysterious Book Report No. 186

by John Dwaine McKenna

If you think about it, all of us have two faces.  The first is the one we show to the world and the second is our private self—the inner person—the person we truly are, where our secret interests lie.  Usually they’re harmless enough . . . a dedicated coin or stamp collector for instance, maybe an interest in a specific subject, genealogy or the Civil War for example . . .  but there’s a dark side too, drinking or drug addiction for instance.  Maybe something worse.  Spousal abuse.  Gambling.  Self Mutilation.  The list is endless and
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Sometimes the Wolf

Sometimes the Wolf

Sometimes the Wolf

Mysterious Book Report No. 185

by John Dwaine McKenna

Falling from grace, for whatever reason, has been an enduring theme throughout human history and all of world literature.  Whether it’s from individual malfeasance, political upheaval or personal relationships gone bad, we humans seem endlessly fascinated when the high and mighty ‘take their licks’ and ‘get theirs.’ Sometimes the Wolf, (Wm Morrow/Harper Collins, $26.99, 277 pages, ISBN 978-0-06-221691-5) by up-and-coming author Urban Waite, is a study of one man’s fall from grace and his son, who is trying to understand his
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Night Heron

Night Heron

Night Heron

Mysterious Book Report No. 184

by John Dwaine McKenna

The next war between the superpowers will most likely take place in cyberspace, because that’s where all the world’s command and control systems are located . . . and it’s highly probable that in the twenty-first century . . . the coming cyberwars will be fought by multinational corporations rather than governments.  Why?  The answer is simple—because that’s where the money is.  The best and brightest, the programmers, computer engineers and as the smartest hackers will all gravitate to private industry rather than government service with the
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Broken Monsters

Broken Monsters

Broken Monsters

Mysterious Book Report No. 183

by John Dwaine McKenna

The city of Detroit has long been an American icon; The Shining City, or Motor City as it’s been called, is now an emblem of broken dreams and unkept promises.  Now it’s bankrupt and known colloquially as Murder City.  It’s a place where taxes go unpaid, homes are abandoned, and buildings are razed by the city because they’re eyesores: neglected, decrepit, crime-ridden, looted and decayed . . . eventually torn down because they’ve become so hazardous to public health and safety. It is against this bleak, dystopian backdrop that an ingeni
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I am Pilgrim

I am Pilgrim

I am Pilgrim Mysterious Book Report No. 181 by John Dwaine McKenna

On occasion, a work of fiction comes along which can only be described as riveting. Enthralling, arresting, gripping, fascinating, absorbing, captivating, hypnotic, engrossing or spellbinding . . . but the single best and most descriptive word for MBR No. 181 is riveting. It will drill a hole into your consciousness, insert a red-hot bolt of dramatic tension, then pound it into place in your memory as one of the most exciting novels you have ever read . . . and the scary part, the part we haven’t mentioned yet . . . the plot could be tomorrow’s front page news. I Am Pilgrim, (Emily Bestler Books/Atria-Simon & Shuster, $26.99, 612 pages, ISBN 978-1-
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Death Money

Death Money

Death Money

Mysterious Book Report No. 182

by John Dwaine McKenna

Ever been to Chinatown in New York City?  Go down to Mott Street in lower Manhattan and it’s as if you’ve stepped into a foreign land . . . it’s a place of exotic sights, sounds and smells, a place where even the signs on the store fronts are in another language; indecipherable for nearly all English speakers.  For those who live there, it’s a reminder of the country they left behind and a comfort because of its familiarity.  That’s the Chinatown the tourists see, and it faces outward, it’s the public face the world to sees.  But there’s
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Young God

Young God

Young God

Mysterious Book Report No. 180

by John Dwaine McKenna

There’s a newer genre of hard-boiled crime fiction known as southern noir or country noir that is fast becoming one of my favorites. It’s full of fresh new talent with some of the hottest writing and the most unique voices and characters to come along, and this weeks MBR No. 180 is just such a one. Young God, (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $24.00, 193 pages, ISBN 978-0-374-53423-3) by Katherine Faw Norris is a novel that comes at the reader full-throttle from the very first sentence on the first page. “NIKKI IS ALL TO HELL.” Moments
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The Hangman

The Hangman

The Hangman

Mysterious Book Report No. 179

by John Dwaine McKenna

Buffalo, New York is where the novels of Stephan Talty take place, and after last year’s breakout hit entitled Black Irish, his growing numbers of fans have been eagerly awaiting the next installment of his Abbie Kearney detective series. She’s been called “One of the most intriguing suspense protagonists in memory,” by leading crime fiction writer Tess Gerritsen, and I heartily agree. Hangman, (Ballantine Books/Penguin Random House, $26.00, 302 pages, ISBN 978-0-345-53808-6) by Stephan Talty, pits Buffalo New York’s Irish-Ame
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Deep Winter

Deep Winter

Deep Winter

Mysterious Book Report No. 178

by John Dwaine McKenna

A resonating theme of mine is one which finds developmentally-challenged individuals accused, and often convicted, of crimes they did not commit. Their very oddness often causes them to be found guilty by acclimation in the courts of public opinion. They are, in fact, the low-hanging fruit that’s sometimes irresistible to ambitious, overeager law enforcement types of the enfranchised, or vigilante variety. The latter in fact, was the motif of August 2012s coming of age novel, The Whim-Wham Man, (Rhyolite Press LLC, $15.00, 149 pages, I
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Midnight In Europe

Midnight In Europe

Midnight in Europe

Mysterious Book Report No. 17

by John Dwaine McKenna

If you’re a fan of noir fiction, tales of WWII exploits or spy thrillers, you’ll love this week’s MBR . . . an espionage novel set in Paris in 1938, on the eve of World War II, just as the Spanish Civil War is coming to an end. Generalissimo Franco’s Nationalist forces, together with their Nazi allies in the north of Spain, are poised to deliver the finishing blow to the beleaguered Republican armies in the south, and establish a fascist dictatorship. The rag-tag Republican army is communist, made up of intellectuals and i
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The Ploughman

The Ploughman

The Ploughmen

Mysterious Book Report No. 176

by John Dwaine McKenna

This is part two of the Mountains and Plains Booksellers Association 2014 Trade show edition, featuring the most talked about and highly regarded novels of the season. The Ploughmen is a remarkable work that will resonate with readers on several levels: its unique storyline, rich characterizations, linguistics, lyricism and the author’s professed and obvious love of the land. The story takes place in Montana, where the author was born and raised, where he still lives and teaches at the University of Montana in Missoula. Making the n
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The Girl on the Train

The Girl on the Train

The Girl On The Train

Mysterious Book Report No. 175

by John Dwaine McKenna

We’ve just returned from the annual Mountains and Plains Booksellers Association Trade Show in Denver, Colorado. It’s a yearly affair with 70 or 80 publishers, several hundred bookstore owners, their employees and managers. It features thousands of new books, authors, lectures and seminars about what’s hot, what’s not, trends in the bookstore retailing arena and the current state of the publishing industry in general. It’s always an exciting, educational and exhausting, non-stop three da

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Best Books of the Year

John Dwaine McKenna 2014 Best Books of the Year

It was an awesome year for crime and mystery fiction, and as a result, it’s generated our longest annual list ever, with selections from around the world. With computers and modern printing methods, an astonishing number of books are being published . . . an estimated one-thousand five hundred per day in the English language, is one figure being given, but the technology is changing so fast that it’s impossible to compile accurate numbers. One thing is for sure: we are living in an unprecedented time of creativity and the availability of books of all kinds has never been greater. In making these selections, which are my personal choices, I’d like to acknowledge the help of
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Stone Cold

Stone Cold

Mysterious Book Report No. 174

by John Dwaine McKenna

For all of the fans who, like me, are mourning the cancellation of the show Longmire by the A&E Network, don’t despair . . . there’s an alternative out there. The novels of C.J. Box, one of today’s “A-list, must read authors,” according to no less of a luminary than world-class author Lee Child, are available to ease your pain and provide an entertaining set of yarns about a Wyoming Fish and Game Warden named Joe Pickett. For those of you who aren’t familiar with C.J. Box, he’s won the Edga

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The Investigation

The Investigation

Mysterious Book Report No. 173

by John Dwaine McKenna

Mention “World War II Prison Stories” in any group and the resulting discussion will invariably focus around one of three classic and much admired movies: Stalag 17, The Great Escape, and The Bridge on the River Kwai. But, if you’re willing to do more than sit on the couch with a dazed look and the TV remote in hand, if you’ll take the time to find and read this week’s novel—you’ll be introduced to an author who’s wildly popular and influential in Asia. His name is Jung-Myung Lee, and he

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The Son

The Son

The Son

Mysterious Book Report No 172

by John Dwaine McKenna

There’s only two types of crime fiction and hard-boiled detective story readers  . . . those who are Jo Nesbo fans . . . and those who will be Jo Nesbo fans as soon as they read one of his kick-ass novels.  Nesbo is the international best-selling author from Norway who first blazed onto the scene with his dramatic, action-filled series about a troubled, drug-addicted Oslo detective named Harry Hole.  But, detective series aren’t all that this gifted author does.  He’s also a musician, songwriter and an economist, as well as the creato
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The Ways of the Dead

The Ways of the Dead

The Ways of the Dead

Mysterious Book Report No 171

by John Dwaine McKenna

It’s a fact that cities around the world have two faces.  The first face is the Chamber of Commerce one; that’s where we see beautiful monuments and buildings, parks and well maintained streets with trees and greenery, stately homes and scenic vistas which tempt us to visit  . . . or perhaps even move there.  Then there is the other face: the Mr. Hyde face, the one with warts, scars and pimples.  The dark seamy side of town where there’s graffiti on the walls, and crime in the streets.  It’s where poverty, drugs and ma
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The Cairo Affair

The Cairo Affair

The Cairo Affair

Mysterious Book Report No 170

by John Dwaine McKenna

The Middle East and North Africa has been the focus of the world’s attention since the beginning of the Arab Spring in 2010, and now, the Syrian War has bled over into neighboring countries and spawned one of the most savage, retrograde and degenerate groups of terrorists to ever come along.  It’s name is ISIS and most foreign policy experts believe that it, and other groups like it, will pose a long term threat to the United States, Britain, Europe and Australia.  But in addition to the wars in
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The Wayfaring Stranger

The Wayfaring Stranger

Wayfaring Stranger

Mysterious Book Report No.169

by John Dwaine McKenna

It’s hard, in this time of generally gracious living, to imagine the privation, fear and destitution that characterized the Great Depression of the 1930s, but the opening chapters of Wayfaring Stranger, (Simon & Shuster, $27.99, 434 pages, ISBN 978-1-4767-1079-2) by James Lee Burke manages to do it in a near-perfect manner that sets the stage for the rest of the novel in an orderly and logical progression of events.  Growing up on his grandfather’s ranch in east Texas, sixteen year-old Weldon Avery Holland
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The Weight of Blood

The Weight of Blood

The Weight of Blood

Mysterious Book Report No. 168

by John Dwaine McKenna

The state of Missouri has long held an exalted place in American Literature, giving us such memorable fictional characters as Tom and Huck, and living legends like Frank and Jesse James.  It’s an area that’s rich in lore and atmosphere, has enough history for several states and it’s known as the gateway to the west . . . where the pioneers assembled their wagon trains before setting out for California and Oregon.  No wonder then, that the Ozark Mountains of southeast Missouri is the setting for an atmospheric new mystery by a promising young Midwestern author. The Weight of B
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Natchez Burning

Natchez Burning

Natchez Burning

Mysterious Book Report No. 167

by John Dwaine McKenna

The nineteen-sixties was the decade that came close to ripping the fabric of society of the United States of America into small pieces and tossing them to the four winds.  It was a time of unrest, when ages-old values were questioned, ages-old wrongs were held to light, fought over and started to be corrected by brave men and women fighting for their civil rights . . . and it was a time in which small groups of racially-motivated bigots espousing an agenda founded on the principals of rage, hate and so-called racial superiority terrorized the nation with bombings and assassinations. 
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The Convictions of John Delahunt

The Convictions of John Delahunt

The Convictions of John Delahunt

Mysterious Book Report No. 166

by John Dwaine McKenna

This week’s MBR is going to be something out of the ordinary.  Those who choose to read it will likely have to use a little extra effort to get their hands on a copy, but the results are worth it. The Convictions of John Delahunt, (Doubleday Ireland, £14.99-(about $25.00), 349 pages, ISBN 978-1-8162-014-4) by Andrew Hughes is a gothic tale of crime and punishment pulled from the pages of history in Dublin, Ireland.  The novel is based on actual crimes which took place in the 1840s.  It is a story of murder and the always despised informers who appear throughout
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The Poor Boys Game

The Poor Boys Game

The Poor Boys Game

Mysterious Book Report No. 165

by John Dwaine McKenna

Philadelphia, one of the oldest cities in America, has been the background for innumerable dramas from the Continental Congress to the signing of the Declaration of Independence to who-knows-how-many Rocky movies.  It's the fourth largest city in the United States, a one-time capitol of the U.S. as well as a cultural and financial center.  A place of arts, history and refinement, Philadelphia has a grittier side as well—making it the source of some excellent crime fiction—like this weeks MBR Number 165.  The Poor Boys Game, (Minotaur Books, $25.99, 322 pages, ISBN 97
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The Lie

The Lie

The Lie

Mysterious Book Report No. 166

by John Dwaine McKenna

There's times when a novel comes along that is so meaningful, so packed with lessons for living, and yes, so moral in tone, that I wish everyone in the world would read it and draw their own conclusions about it.  This week's MBR number 164 is such a one.  I can only hope that with your help, this book report will go viral.  So please . . . read this review . . . seek out and read the book, get your own take.  Then send this review to all of your friends and together, maybe we can start to make a difference in the world . . . a world in which perhaps, we are all more alike than dissimilar. T
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The Martian

The Martian

The Martian

Mysterious Book Report No 163

by John Dwaine McKenna

For the first in a long time, maybe ever, we're reviewing two Si-Fi novels in a row.  It wasn't planned that way, it was by coincidence only, there's no shift in focus going on.  Our emphasis will always be on crime-fiction and mysteries with occasional forays into other, thriller-related areas, like now. The Martian, (Crown Publishing/Random House, $24.00, 369 pages, ISBN 978-0-8041-3902-1) by Andy Weir, is a novel of desperate survival against impossible odds in the not-to-distant future, when one member of the third manned expedition to the planet Mars is marooned. It happens by a
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Colorado Noir Wins Gold Award for Best Fiction

Colorado Noir Wins Gold Award for Best Fiction

Rhyolite Press

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Rhyolite Press is pleased to announce:

 It was a standing room only crowd at the twentieth annual Colorado Independent Publisher's Association (CIPA) awards ceremony in Denver on Saturday the 23rd of August 2014.  There, Colorado Springs author John Dwaine McKenna was awarded Top Honors for
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Shovel Ready

Shovel Ready

Shovel Ready

Mysterious Book Report No 162

by John Dwaine McKenna

Truthfully, I've been getting bored with most of the dystopian-themed novels that have been all the rage for the last few years.  I mean, how much end of the world zombie-alien-robopocalypse or vampire-werewolfen invasions can we take before we go Yeah.  Been there, done that, seen it, seen it, seen it and not only did we get a t-shirt, we wore it out and now we're using what's left of it as a dust rag . . . You know what I mean—booorrring!  But then, just when you think you've seen and done it all, along comes a Si-Fi. novel so compelling, so fresh and so innovative, and yeah, so sarc
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Providence Rag

Providence Rag

Providence Rag

Mysterious Book Report No 161

by John Dwaine McKenna

One of my favorite literary characters and amateur sleuths is a wise-cracking, cigar-chomping, hometown-homeboy ace investigative reporter and crime-fighting journalist by the name of Liam Mulligan.  He's based in Providence, Rhode Island, working for a venerated, one hundred forty year old newspaper that's barely managing to stay afloat, thanks mostly to the publisher's deep sense of responsibility to the city and public he serves . . . and his willingness to subsidize it from his own pocket.  Mulligan's job hangs by a thread, but he keeps right on doing it to the best of his ability;
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Then We Take Berlin

Then We Take Berlin

Mysterious Book Report No 160

by John Dwaine McKenna

I've always enjoyed reading historical fiction or crime and espionage novels, as well as most anything to do with World War II and the early cold war period.  When I found an unfamiliar author who had just written a novel that combined all those elements into one project . . . I couldn't wait to get a copy and dive in, see if all the publicity and book jacket blurbs were accurate, or just hype.  I'm happy to report that this week's MBR more than meets expectations, and uncovers another high-quality, but often over-looked author named John Lawton.  His new novel Then We T
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A Song For The Dying

A Song For The Dying

Mysterious Book Report No 159

John Dwaine McKenna

Have you ever thought about, or have a personal vision of Hell?  It is of course, a theme which reverberates throughout the canons of the great religions of the world; but it's also a subject many of the world's greatest writers have tackled . . . the most famous of which is a fourteenth century epic poem by an Italian named Dante Alighieri in which he describes in minute detail, his vision of nine circles of Hell.  Hell, has in fact, been discussed and described so often and so much that it's become a ubiquitous part of our everyday language . . . what the hell, where the hell and how t
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The Ascendant

The Ascendant

Mysterious Book Report No 158

by John Dwaine McKenna

Anyone who's watched television lately knows that the most interesting man in the world is busy selling Mexican beer . . . but have you ever wondered just what the smartest man in the world is up to?  Well, wonder no more . . . the MBR has the answer for you . . . he's the protagonist in a dandy new, just published thriller that redefines the genre! So, if you're a fan of Robert Ludlum's Jason Bourne, love reading Steven Coonts, Brad Thor and Vince Flynn . . . well, you can just fuhgettaboutem!  The international thriller has been rewritten and updated for the twenty-first century and the inter
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The Big Crowd

The Big Crowd

Mysterious Book Report No. 157

by John Dwaine McKenna

The Mysterious Book Report has long been an ardent and enthusiastic promoter of the classic black and white noir movies made in the golden age of film during the 1930s, 40s and 50s.  They are, in fact, the very definition of the French word noir, meaning 'black film', which has been assimilated into English as: A style of cinematographic film marked by a mood of pessimism, fatalism and menace.  The term was originally applied to American thriller or detective films made in the period 1944-54 by such directors as Orson Wells, Fritz Lang and Billy Winder, according to my Oxford Dictionary.  I'd ad
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After I’m Gone

Mysterious Book report No. 156

by John Dwaine McKenna

Have you ever played the WHAT IF game?  You know . . . the one that goes like this . . . What if I lost my job?  What if one of us gets sick?  Really, really sick like Ebola or something?  What if a UFO landed behind our house?  What would we do . . .  Yeah.  That game.  We all do it from time to time and it's not always negative.  What if I won the lottery?  What if weird old Aunt Wilma died and left us an ostrich ranch in the Australian outback?  The WHAT IF game can be entertaining, harmless and fun—providing one doesn't let it get out of hand and become neurotic.  For a handf
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Chance

Mysterious Book Report No. 155

by John Dwaine McKenna

Some of the best thriller and crime fiction stories are built around the premise of an ordinary person being put into an extraordinary situation.  For example . . . Peter Parker is bitten by a radioactive spider and as a result, develops supernatural powers which totally change his life as he becomes 'The Amazing Spiderman,' a crusading crime fighter and doer of good deeds.  Far fetched?  Absolutely, you betcha.  Does it make for good stories?  Ditto.  What I want to emphasize however, is not the Spiderman stories, but that one extraordinary event which changed him forever and made him a super hero. In Chance, (
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The Kept

Mysterious Book Report No. 154

by John Dwaine McKenna

Sometimes I get feedback from fans and readers that goes something like this . . . "How come I never heard of the books or authors you talk about in the newspapers?" . . . And my answer is always the same.  "Because I'm trying to find your next favorite author for you, instead of the same old, same old bestseller's you've been getting in mass market paperbacks at the grocery store checkout lane."  Here's an example: The Kept, (Harper Collins, $25.99, 357 pages, ISBN 978-0-06-223673-9) by James Scott is a debut novel with an unequalled sense of time and place, as well as an intricate, compelling and fast-pac
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The Black-eyed Blonde

Mysterious Book Report No. 153

by John Dwaine McKenna

One of the most iconic writers of the twentieth century is Raymond Chandler.  He is the father of the hard-boiled detective novel, and creator of a character named Phillip Marlowe, who became the prototypical private eye for many of our popular modern writers, notably Robert Parker's 'Spenser' and Michael Connelly's 'Hieronymus "Harry" Bosch,' an LAPD detective.  Raymond Chandler died in 1959 at age 71, after writing masterpieces like The Big Sleep, Farewell My Lovely and The Long Goodbye, leaving readers mourning his passing and crime fiction writers around the world studying his gritty, tough and realistic sty
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The Rules of Wolfe

The Rules of Wolfe

Mysterious Book Report No. 151

by John Dwaine McKenna

The roughly 2,400 mile long imaginary line which separates the US from Mexico encompasses an area known as the borderlands.  It's been disputed, fought over and illegally crossed in both directions for as long as it's been drawn.  It separates the haves from the have-nots and represents two uniquely different cultures, each of which has its own customs and laws.  But in the borderland, those differences are crushed together and blended into something that combines parts of both yet all of neither.  They are the rules of the borderlands. The Rules of Wolfe, (Mysterious Press, $24.00, 258 pages,
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Japantown

Japantown

Mysterious Book Report No. 150

by John Dwaine McKenna

Have you ever noticed that we humans tend to seek the company of our own kind?  That we form affinity groups of like-minded persons and stay within, or at least in proximity to it?  This is especially true of recent immigrants and non-English speakers, so much so in fact, that certain areas of major cities are known by sobriquets like " Little Italy, Spanish Harlem and New Odessa."  Which brings us to the subject of this week's Mysterious Book Report. Japantown, (Simon & Shuster, $25.00, 398 pages, ISBN 978-1-4516-9169-6) by Barry Lancet begins in the Japanese section of San Francisco, at a crime sc
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Alex

Alex

Mysterious Book Report No. 149

by John Dwaine McKenna

There's no other way to say it; the novel we're reviewing this week is flat-out diabolical in nature, fiendishly clever and as compulsively addictive as a honking great piece of New York Cheesecake smothered in cherry compote . . . Alex, (MacLehose Press/Quercus, $24.95, 368 pages, ISBN 978-1-62365-000-1) by Pierre LeMaitre was first published in France in 2011, where it won just about every literary award in sight.  It was translated into English in 2013 by Frank Wynne, and was promptly awarded the 2013 Crime Writers of America International Dagger Award as the Best Crime Novel of the year.  No amount of sup
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Going Dark

Going Dark

Mysterious Book Report No.  148

by John Dwaine McKenna

My old friend Caywood was opposed to modern technology.  He hated microwave ovens and cell phones, but most of all he hated computers.  He'd say, only half joking, "Computers are the work of the Devil, and when we're totally dependent on 'em . . . that damned old Devil's gonna shut off all the electricity.  You just see how effed-up everything gets then."  I laughed and treated it as a joke when he said that back in 2001.  Caywood passed in 2004, a victim of ALS, or Lou Gherig's disease, but his comment has only gotten more prescient over the years.  We would all be screwed without electricity.  The world
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Red Sky in Morning

Mysterious Book Report No. 147

by John Dwaine McKenna

There’s an old Irish joke Michael Curley told me a number of years ago that goes like this:  How can you tell when an Irishman is losing his mind?  He forgets who he has grudges against!  It’s a joke that’s all the funnier because there’s an element of truth to it.  The Irish are known far and wide as a fighting race and belligerence seems like part of their genetic makeup. Red Sky in Morning, (Little, Brown and Company, $25.00, 275 pages, ISBN 978-0-316-23025-4) by Paul Lynch is a novel of crime and retribution, written in a prose style so unique and lyrical it could almost be called poetry.  It
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Tatiana

Mysterious Book Report No. 146

by John Dwaine McKenna

Given the current state of world affairs as regards Russia, Vladimir Putin, the Crimea, Ukraine and the general world condemnation of Mr. P and the country he’s president of in light of the so-called referendum on March the sixteenth as to whether Crimea should become part of Russia or remain part of Ukraine . . . what could be better than a novel featuring the most honest, and beleaguered detective in the Moscow Police Department: Arkady Renko.  He’s been beaten, stabbed, eradicated, sent to gulag in Siberia, and most recently . . . shot in the head, but like an indestructible Timex watch he “Takes a licking and keeps o
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Jimmy the Stick

Mysterious Book Report No. 145

By John Dwaine McKenna

 For many crime fiction fans, the Prohibition Era of the 1920s and the Great Depression in the 30s holds an intense fascination that, even now, almost one hundred years later, captivates our collective imaginations.  The gangster age as it became known, really began at the end of the Great War—the first mechanized conflict and the largest war the world had ever known.  Then came the Roaring Twenties, with the Jazz Age, the stock market crash, and of course, the Volstead Act, or Prohibition, which gave rise to the golden age of crime, speakeasys, bathtub gin and an entire nation of scofflaws, determined to

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A Nasty Piece of Work

Mysterious Book Report No. 144

by John Dwaine McKenna

When one of the best and most well-known living writers of espionage spy thrillers turns his hand to crime fiction, you bet we’re going to pay attention here at the Mysterious Book Report.  Robert Littell, author of blockbuster novels like The Company, Legends and The Stalin Epigram, has turned his hand to writing crime fiction and mysteries.  And he’s come up with a Chandler-esque Private Investigator named Lemuel Gunn to tell the tales. In A Nasty Piece of Work, (Thomas Dunne Books/St Martins Press, $24.99, 259 pages, ISBN 978-1-250-02145-8) by Robert Littell, protagonist Lemuel Gunn is living in
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Game

Mysterious Book Report No. 143

by John Dwaine McKenna

One of the greatest things about the Mysterious Book Report is its ability to jump around in time and place.  Thus, we can go from post WWII Vienna, Austria, to present day Stockholm, Sweden, in the blink of an eye, migrating from an introspective, complex and densely populated intellectual novel, to a fast-paced techno-thriller that will keep you glued to the edge of your seat until the very last page is read . . . at which point you’ll be howling for the next installment of the projected trilogy. Game, (Atria/Simon & Shuster, PB $16.00, 386 pages, ISBN 978-1-4767-1288-8) by Anders de la Motte is a chrome-plat
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The Crooked Maid

Mysterious Book Report No. 142

by John Dwaine McKenna

In the immediate aftermath of WWII, Vienna, Austria was a political, social and environmental disaster.  It was a city in the hard business of reconstruction, denazification and redirection . . . a place that was in the midst of “Convincing itself that it was the first victim of Nazism, not it’s willing bride.”  By the year 1948, expatriates, prisoners of war and other refugees were streaming back to a city that was almost unrecognizable.  It was a time of change: Czechslovokia, Yugoslavia, Hungary, Bulgaria, Poland, Albania and the eastern half of Germany had all gone communist, influenced by the USSR; while the Greek
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The Tilted World

The Tilted World

Mysterious Book Report No. 141

by John Dwaine McKenna

Think you know American History?  Here’s a question for you . . . what, and when, was the most destructive flood in the entire history of the United States?

It’s a tough question.  The correct answer is, the Mississippi River in the year 1927.  It’s known as the year the rains, which started in November, never stopped.  In the flooding that followed, 246 people were killed in seven different states, 27,000 square miles were flooded to a depth of thirty feet in places and south of Memphis, Tennessee, the Mississippi was sixty miles wide. It is against t
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Brown’s Requiem

Brown's Requiem

Mysterious Book Report No. 140

by John Dwaine McKenna

Los Angeles, California has long been the epicenter for crime fiction of all types. They include police procedurals, courtroom dramas and private eye yarns by a long list of world class authors like Raymond Chandler, Earle Stanley Gardner and Dashiel Hammett from the golden age of the 1930s, '40s, and '50s, as well as more modern writers such as Joseph Wambaugh, Walter Mosley and Michael Connelly.  One of my personal favorites however, is a perennial heavyweight, "The dark poet of noir fiction," whose stories routinely take bleak and unexpected turns on the way to a dazzling and elect

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The Return

Mysterious Book Report No. 139

by John Dwaine McKenna

Have you ever had dark fantasies?  You know the kind—the ones where you plot a scheme to get even with someone, or something.  Then, reality hits, you come to your senses and the daydream ends with thoughts of the consequences of those actions and the fears of getting caught. But . . . what if . . . what if revenge was within your grasp?  If you had no fear of the consequences because you had a medical condition that was guaranteed to cut your life short.  Would you do it then?  Would you seek retribution if you thought you had nothing to lose? The Return, (Henry Holt, $28.00, 366 pages, ISBN 978-0-8050-9129-8) by Michael Gruber does j
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The Accident

The Accident

Mysterious Book Report No. 138

by John Dwaine McKenna

It’s no secret to regular readers of the Mysterious Book Report  that our focus is on finding new and upcoming authors who show a lot of promise, as well as a lot of talent, in the thriller and crime fiction genres and bring them to your attention.  My criteria are simple.  Is it a new and unknown author?  Does he or she have something interesting to say and a unique voice to say it in?  And lastly, am I still thinking about what I’ve read for several days after?  If so, the book will probably make our Best Books of the Year List, which is issued each December at around Christmas time.
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Hurt

Mysterious Book Report No. 137

by John Dwaine McKenna

One of the up and coming new authors who’s gaining a lot of credibility because he writes great mysteries with a political twist is an Irish writer named Brian McGilloway.  He lives and works in Derry, Northern Ireland, in an area known as the borderlands, because it abuts the Republic of Ireland.  It is an area with unique, even extreme, sensibilities due to the protestant and catholic violence between British Loyalists or Prods, and Catholic Republicans, the Provo’s and others who desire a unified Ireland.  It is a complex and long-disputed issue which has broken out in open warfare between the groups, most recently in the 1970s, 80s and 90s, and
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The Killer Inside of Me

Mysterious Book Report No. 136

By John Dwaine McKenna

Every once in a while it’s refreshing to take a break from all of the just-published, must-read books written by authors who seem to be punching them out faster than we can absorb them, and turn to one of the classics: the foundational works that are the stepping stones from which many modern works emanate. The Killer Inside of Me, (Orion Books Ltd., $12.00, PB 220 pages, ISBN 978-1-4091-1971-5) by Jim Thompson was first published in the United States in 1952 and republished in Great Britain in 2010.  As far as I know, it’s one of the first novels written from the perspective of a full-blown, amoral, sociopathic serial killer.  He’s a ho
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Country Hardball

Mysterious Book Report No. 135

by John Dwaine McKenna

Many who were born and raised in small town America and emigrated from them, remember life there with fond nostalgia.  As my dad used to say, “You can take the boy out of the country, but you can’t take the country out of the boy.” Yeah, but what about the girls, Pop?  What about them.  The writer Tom Wolfe had an answer.  He said, “You can’t go home again.”  Meaning, I suppose, that those who do return will find it so changed as to be unrecognizable.  I think both axioms have merit, but don’t entirely agree with either one of them . . . and I’m gonna use this week’s MBR to illustrate. Country Hardball,
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The Gods of Guilt

Mysterious Book Report No. 134

by John Dwaine McKenna

The Mysterious Book Report this week is another by the prolific best seller, Michael Connelly, everybody’s favorite mystery writer.  That’s because he’s able to regularly turn out original works that Just Get It, in the words of one of my favorite cop buddys. The Gods of Guilt, (Little Brown, $28.00, 387 pages, ISBN 978-0-316-06951-9) by Michael Connelly is a courtroom drama featuring Mickey Haller, AKA The Lincoln Lawyer.  In this one, Haller lands a murder case with a client who can afford to pay his fees—an unusual occurrence. It’s a referral from one of his former clients, a prostitute Haller helped to get out of ‘the li
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Spirit of Steamboat

Mysterious Book Report No. 133

by John Dwaine McKenna

Have you ever seen the hit drama series Longmire, on the A&E television network?  If so, maybe you, like me, are a fan of the hard-working Wyoming Sheriff named Walt Longmire.  Whether you’ve seen the show or not, read any of the series of books about him, or not, you’re in for a real treat with this week’s MBR Number 133.  It’s a Walt Longmire novella that won’t take long to read, but it’s one that will stay in your thoughts for a long, long time. Spirit of Steamboat, (Penguin, $20.00, 146 pages, ISBN 978-0-670-01578-8) by Craig Johnson is, like Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, a short piece with a lasting impact.  It
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Star of Istanbul

Star of Istanbul

Mysterious Book Report No. 132

by John Dwaine McKenna

The Great War, or World War One, as it’s now known, has long been an area of interest to me.  My Grandfather on my Father’s side of the family fought in it.  The Great War was the first mechanized war and the effects were both brutal and horrific.  The Ottoman Turk empire collapsed; the Brits killed an entire generation of their young men, bankrupted their country and saw their colonial empire begin to deconstruct itself; ditto for the French and Belgians; the Austrian Empire disappeared and Germany was vanquished in the war, stripped of her territories, saddled with war reparations too h
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Red Sparrow

Mysterious Book Report No. 131

by John Dwaine McKenna

Move over John LeCarre and Ian Fleming.  Take a seat Graham Green, John Gardner and Vince Flynn . . . there’s a new spy novel sheriff in town and he’s packing plenty of talent, byzantine plotting and exquisite details based on thirty-three years of experience collecting clandestine intelligence in “denied-access” areas of the world with the CIA. Red Sparrow, (Scribner, $26.99, 434 pages, ISBN 978-1-4767-0612-2) by Jason Matthews is the real deal.  Espionage with a reawakening and belligerent Russia is at the heart of this great first novel by an ex-CIA case officer who’s been there and done it all.  Russia, under the leadership of V
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The Blood of Heaven

Mysterious Book Report No. 130

by John Dwaine McKenna

In 1804, the United States was partitioned, with Spain, France and Great Britain, a young America and numerous Indian Nations laying claim to various parts of her.  It was a time when America was in its formative stage, when new land and territory stretched to the western horizons, and the idea of a manifest destiny was being conceived in the minds of American statesmen and patriots.  The original thirteen colonies were in the process of being made into states: whittled down to their present day dimensions, with the trimmed off lands forming new states and acting as jumping off places for further westward expansion . . . and the gigantic Louisiana Purch
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Suspects

Mysterious Book Report No. 129

by John Dwaine McKenna

Post-traumatic stress disorder, PTSD is a mental condition suffered by some individuals who've been subjected to intense, loud and life-threatening situations.  Anyone who's been in a life and death situation can suffer from it.  The US Armed Forces have for years denied the existence of PTSD, labeling sufferers of the condition as malingerers, or shirkers, refusing treatment and shunning the afflicted.  Fortunately for the patients, all of that is changing for the better, through improved recognition and treatment options.  You may already be aware of PTSD and it's history, but do you know that animals can and do suffer all the same affects of it as
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They Don’t Dance Much

Mysterious Book Report No. 127

by John Dwaine McKenna

This week’s Mysterious Book Report is a blast from the past: a piece of crime fiction that was first published in 1940, but for some reason was never the big success it was expected to be with the general public, although it received great reviews from the likes of Raymond Chandler, Flannery O’Connor and others.  It is the work of a Greensboro, North Carolina newspaper reporter named James Ross, and it is the only novel he ever published.  It is considered to be the birth of a genre known as “Southern Noir.”   Kept alive by word of mouth through the years, its copyright was renewed in 1968, and has just been put back into print, part of the renaissan
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Burial Rites

Mysterious Book Report No. 126

John Dwaine McKenna

This week's book review is a debut novel by an Australian author of great talent and outstanding promise; an author we'll be paying attention to for a long, long time.  Her novel is titled Burial Rites (Little Brown, $26.00, 322 pages, ISBN 978-0-316-24391-9) and the author's name is Hannah Kent.  She's a graduate student who's finishing her PhD at FlindersUniversity in Adelaide, South Australia, and she's written one of the most meticulously well-researched and beautiful works of historical fiction I have read in quite some time.  It takes place in 1829 on a remote farm in northern Iceland and tells the story of Agnes Magnusdottir, a woman convi
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Never Go Back

 Mysterious Book Report No. 125

by John Dwaine McKenna

I've said any number of times that I don't often review the major, 'A List' authors, but every once in a while there's an exception.  This week is one of them.  I mean-hey, what's not to like about a big, hunky, existentialist dude who owns nothing but the clothes on his back and travels about our fair land loving the ladies and beating the bejeezus out of every bad guy he runs into?  I'm referring of course to everyone's favorite modern day knight-errant, Jack Reacher.  If you're not already familiar with him, treat yourself.  Get hold of a copy of this week's MBR No. 125, Never Go Back, (Delacorte Press/Random House, $28.00, 400 page
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Let It Burn

Mysterious Book Report No. 124

by John Dwaine McKenna

One thing you may not have picked up from all the cops n' robbers shows we all watch nightly on the telly—as we have since we've had television, and the radio dramas before them, is this: all arresting and prosecuting officers of the law take a keen interest in the whereabouts of the miscreants they've put away.  Let's face it.  No one wants to get jumped by a criminal who's spent the last howevermany years rotting in jail, or gladiator school as some smart-alecs call it, plotting their revenge against the persons who put them there.  And therefore a notification system exists, formal and informal as well, to notify certain police or lawyers when certain co
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Save Yourself

Mysterious Book Report No. 123

by John Dwaine McKenna

There’s a saying my old Irish Grandmother repeated that goes like so: God made the countryside and man built the cities . . . but the devil made the small town. I’ve thought about that old saw over the years, and what I think she meant was this: in a small town everyone knows everyone else’s business, so therefore, no one can EVER escape from their past.  And nowhere is it more true than in a small southwestern Pennsylvania town where this week’s MBR No. 123, Save Yourself, (Crown Publishing/Random House, $25.00, 310 pages ISBN 978-0-385-34734-1) by Kelly Braffet, takes place.  It’s where a twenty something named Patrick Cusimano is
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The Shanghi Factor

Mysterious Book Report No. 122

by John Dwaine McKenna

Here's a true confession: I have been fascinated by spies, espionage and tradecraft ever since the 1950's when I read that first issue of Mad Magazine and was introduced to the iconic Spy vs Spy cartoon strip with it's two identical antagonists, battling to a constant and eternal draw.  From then on, I have read every spy novel I could get my hands on, from Joseph Conrad to John LeCarre, Ian Fleming to Frederick Forsyth and Vince Flynn as well as many others.  But in all that time, over those many hundreds of books, I don't think there has been a truer, more accurate and actual, realistic depiction of the life of a spy than this week's MBR No. 12
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Red Moon

Mysterious Book Report No. 121

by John Dwaine McKenna

Happy Halloween!  This one's for all the trick or treater's out there, as well as all of the young at heart whose days of dressing up in costume and ringing doorbells and screaming that ages old refrain are long behind them. The topic this week is lycanthropy: the belief that humans can turn themselves into wolves, commonly known as werewolves.  And let's just suppose for a minute that werewolves weren't the product of a deranged mind or a folk tale.  Let's suppose that werewolves (or lycans short for lycanthropes) live among us and have grown so numerous that they have a homeland, carved out of an icy no-man's land between Finland and Russia; that vast de
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A Man Without Breath

Mysterious Book Report No. 119

by John Dwaine McKenna

A nation without religion—that is like a man without breath.--Joseph Goebbels, Minister of Propaganda in Nazi Germany, 1933-45.  He had total control of the press, radio and all aspects of German culture during that time.  It was his job to make the Nazi Army look as good as possible, while at the same time, making Germany's many enemies look as bad as possible.  It was Goebbels who suppressed all the information about the Holocaust from the world.  He, like most of the rest of the Nazi warlords, committed suicide in 1945, rather than surrender to the Allied forces and face a war crimes tribunal. In this weeks MBR No. 119,
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Visitation Street

Mysterious Book Report No. 120

by John Dwaine McKenna

Across from lower Manhattan, on the eastern shore, at the mouth of the East River, is a run-down area of abandoned warehouses, discarded, dilapidated piers and muddy salt flat marshes that look out on the Buttermilk Channel, Governor's Island, Ellis, Liberty and Staten Island, the upper bay, as well as the New Jersey shoreline and the Statue of Liberty.  It's called Red Hook.  It's the toughest part of Brooklyn, sitting on a promontory that time has passed by.  It's an area that runs the socio-economic spectrum, from pioneering yuppies and developers intent on gentrification, to hard-boiled middle class working types who've lived in the area for a generation
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Light of the World

Mysterious Book Report No. 118

by John Dwaine McKenna

This week's MBR is a review of an author I've admired and read diligently for the past twenty-some years . . . ever since I heard him interviewed by Terry Gross on National Public Radio one afternoon as I waited in the car.  The author's name is James Lee Burke.  He's been called "America's best Novelist," by The Denver Post, awarded two Edgars by the Mystery Writers of America and lauded as a Grand Master as well.  He's been called "The reigning champ of nostalgia noir," by The New York Times and "A modern master" by Publishers Weekly.  All mighty praise indeed, to which I can only add this humble coda:  James Lee Burke not only
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Follow Her Home

Mysterious Book Report No. 117

by John Dwaine McKenna

As regular readers of the Mysterious Book Report, know we work to search out and find debut mysteries written by first-time authors and grow as fans with them, rather than bowing and scraping at the feet of the mega-writers with seven or eight figure publishing contracts from the giants of the industry—although we do admit to occasionally genuflecting near them, by occasionally reviewing the masters in order to serve the entire reading public.  But, our focus will always be on finding our next great author rather than our most favorite old ones.  This week we've got a new author and book and, guess what, it's aimed squarely at the lady readers in the crowd!
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The Carrion Birds

Mysterious Book Report No. 116

by John Dwaine McKenna

A lot of folks in America don't seem to be aware of it, or maybe they just don't care since it's not on their front stoop, but a war unlike any we've ever had is raging inside our nation.  It's called the War on Drugs . . . and we're losing it.  Certain parts of our cities are the scenes of daily urban combat between different gangs competing for drug territory.  The focal point of the entire war however, is in the American southwest, along the California, Arizona, New   Mexico and Texas boarders.  There, in small towns close to the Mexican border, law enforcement officials are under constant pressure and threat from the four major Mexican drug cartels who no
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The Son

Mysterious Book Report No 115

by John Dwaine McKenna

  If you've ever wished for a big, bold, sprawling novel filled with insight, history, a compelling and exciting story with plenty of action-driven plot, capped off by soaring prose with masterful as well as beautiful, always lyrical—to the point of being poetic—language, your wish has come true in the form of a great new novel from Philipp Meyer. The Son, (ECCO, $27.99, 561 pages, ISBN 978-0-06-212039-7) is a novel about a Texas Dynasty, The McCulloughs; and it's a novel that's as big as the state itself, covering parts of three centuries . . . from the pre-civil war frontier through the oil booms and busts of the twentieth century, on int
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Transatlantic

Mysterious Book Report No. 114

by John Dwaine McKenna

Have you ever wondered about the word Genius?  What is it exactly?  Who determines it?  Where can we find it, where does it come from and how will we know when we see it?  These are just a few of the thoughts that come to mind when one thinks about the word and what it implies, or the status it confers upon the recipient.  The Oxford dictionary of American English defines genius as exceptional intellectual or creative power or other natural ability, and after reading that, it's certainly an apt description of this week's author and his work of complex literary art . . . Transatlantic, (Random House, $27.00, 304 pages, ISBN 978-1-4
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Standing In Another Man’s Grave

Mysterious Book Report No. 113

by John Dwaine McKenna

One of the most interesting characters in all of crime fiction literature is a champion of seemingly lost causes named John Rebus.  You may have seen him on PBS television.  He's the irascible, grouchy, and brilliant Scottish Detective Inspector from Edinburg created some twenty years ago by a Scotsman writer named Ian Rankin; and, like a rare single malt whisky, he gets better with age. Standing In Another Man's Grave, (Little, Brown, $25.99, 388 pages, ISBN 978-0-316-22458-1) by Ian Rankin is the twentieth in the series.  Like all of Rankin's work it is intelligent, finely-crafted and engaging.  It begins with a retired DI Rebus working in a civilian
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Breaking Point

Mysterious Book Report No. 112

by John Dwaine McKenna

In spite of what the old saw says, and what our mothers and other teachers told us . . . sometimes we just can't help but prejudge . . . we go right ahead and judge a book by it's cover, as the old saying goes.  I've done it, you've done it, we've all done it at one time or another, only to find out at a later date how very wrong we were in our first assessment.  This applies to people, places and things, or in my personal case, books. A few years ago, I was offered a pair of novels about a Wyoming game warden.  "They're pretty good," the recommender said.  "Nah," I said, "that doesn't appeal to me, it doesn't sound very exciting, to tell you the truth
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Bear Is Broken

Mysterious Book Report No. 111

by John Dwaine McKenna

Some of the most popular and ever present murder mysteries and crime fiction novels involve lawyers and courtroom dramas.  Probably the first to do so was Earle Stanley Gardner, with his case-cracking super-lawyer named Perry Mason, who always seemed able to force a confession on the witness stand.  These days, author John Grisham seems to have a hammer-lock on the genre, but, just like sports, where there's always up and coming new talent nipping at the heels of the veterans, so it is with writers. Bear Is Broken, (Mysterious Press, $24.00, 256 pages, ISBN 978-0-8021-2079-3) by Lochlan Smith is a debut novel from a new young author with what looks like
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Robert Parker’s Wonderland

Mysterious Book Report No. 110

by John Dwaine McKenna

When a popular and prolific author dies, so do all of his or her characters.  If the author in question has created a serial character, the mourning is even greater because the character is so beloved by legions of invested readers and fans . . . some of whom have been involved in reading the character's stories from the authors first book to the last . . . that the publisher, working with the author's estate, will print unfinished manuscripts and works in progress at the time of death.  Sometimes, in really rare instances, another young, upcoming author will be hired to continue the deceased one's work.  Such is the case with Robert B. Parker's Boston private
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The Third Bullet

Mysterious Book Report 109

by John Dwaine McKenna

This November twenty-second will mark the fiftieth anniversary of the assassination of John F. Kennedy, the thirty-fifth president of the United   States.  For those of us who are old enough to remember that horrific day and its aftermath, it hardly seems possible that so much time has passed.  In the words of a popular song . . . I just looked around and he’s gone . . . The President is gone, fifty years is gone, the Viet Nam War is gone, our innocence is gone . . . and our youth is gone. Now is the time we become reflective in our lives, with all us Baby Boomers reminiscing, and remembering; thinking about what happened, what went right and what went w
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Ghostman

Mysterious Book Report No. 108

by John Dwaine McKenna

Who among us hasn't dreamed, at one time or another, of chucking it all; going off the grid and living a life of anonymity?  No name, no taxes and no responsibilities . . . answerable only to oneself and the whims of chance.  Soon however, like running off to join the circus, or driving a Corvette from town to town along Route 66, all of these flights of fancy fade away like the daydreams they are.  But . . . what if . . . This week's MBR is about just such an anonymous man.  He's elusive, doesn't even exist in the piles of paper and digital ones and zeros that define all the rest of us.  And he's a criminal.  Not a petty criminal eit
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The Boyfriend

Mysterious Book Report No. 107

by John Dwaine McKenna

There are people in the world who are so expert in their chosen fields of work that they have the skill and the ability to make the most difficult tasks look easy.  You know the ones I mean: the accountant who takes the most insurmountable stack of receipts and sloppy bookkeeping and turn them into an on-time, precise and neatly done books or tax returns . . . the master carpenter who quickly assembles a beautiful and plumb building, set of stairs or set of cabinets from a pile of lumber . . . or the classroom teacher who captivates the minds and attentions of twenty-five or thirty students at once and inspires them to greater accomplishments than the stud
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The Black Irish

Mysterious Book Report No. 106

by John Dwaine McKenna

Are you familiar with the term “Black Irish?” It refers not to the color of one’s skin, but to the color of one’s hair.  The black Irish are descendents of the survivors of King Phillip of Spain’s Spanish Armada, a fleet of warships sent in 1588 to invade England.  The Armada was defeated by the British Navy, and the remainder was sunk by storms off of the HebridesIslands.  The survivors made it to Ireland where they remained, settled and met those fair and red haired Irish lassies and, well . . . you know the rest of that story.  The result is some Irish are black-haired and blue-eyed, and that is the subject of out MBR No. 106. Black Iri
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The Old Turks Load

The Old Turks Load

Mysterious Book Report No. 105

by John Dwaine McKenna

If you're old enough to remember the late sixties, you're certain to have memories of the so-called "Summer of Love", the hippie movement, the birth of the drug culture, movies like Panic in Needle Park, and The French Connection, and the heroin epidemic that raged in many of the world's cities . . . but most notably in New York City. RhyolitePress Logo   Heroin is an opiate derived from the alkaloid r
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Whim-Wham Man Release

Rhyolite Press

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

 Fiction Readers in Colorado are celebrating!

Rhyolite  Press  announced  today  the  release  of  its  first  book  in  a  planned  series  of mysteries and thrillers that all take place in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado. The Whim˗Wham Man, the first of a series featuring
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Donnybrook

Mysterious Book Report No. 104

by John Dwaine McKenna

Have you ever heard of a place in Ireland called Donnybrook?  It’s an area just outside of Dublin, and the site of the legendary Donnybrook Fair.  A charter for it was given in the early thirteenth century and it was held annually over the next six hundred years during August and September for fourteen days.  It was fourteen days of drinking, brawling, and public spectacles.  The Donnybrook Fair became so infamous for bad behavior that it was bought out and permanently closed in 1855 by the Lord Mayor of Dublin . . . and left its name as a legacy to the English language as the definition for a brawl, or “a scene of uproar and disorder.” Don
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The Death of Bees

Mysterious Book Report No. 103

John Dwaine McKenna

The novel we're reviewing this week is one of the most talked about this year.  After reading it I understand why.  It's a mystery that concerns itself not with who did it, but instead with How long can they get away with the crime?  It's written by a native of Scotland named Lisa O'Donnell in the form of three, first-person narratives: Marnie, a fifteen year old who's been hardened by the bleakness of her life and situation.  She's trying to protect her younger sister, Nelly.  Nelly is a twelve or thirteen year old prodigy  who plays classical violin like an angel.  Her narrative is self-centered and not much concerned with reality, becau
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Hit Me

Mysterious Book Report No. 102

 by John Dwaine McKenna

The summer reading season is getting underway and this weeks book selection was chosen because it's ideal for reading in short intervals as time allows.  It consists of three novellas, all linked together around two central themes: the first being extraordinary and the second arcane.  It's great crime fiction that transports the reader to another time and place in just a few pages . . . a time and place that the reader herself will never actually go . . . but a time and place she'll feel familiar with after reading Hit Me, (Mulholland Books-Little Brown, $26.99, 337 pages, ISBN 978-0-316-12735-6) by Lawrence Block.  It reprises one of the most

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A Killer in the Wind

A Killer in the Wind

Mysterious Book Report No. 101

by John Dwaine McKenna

Have you ever had a premonition that came true?  A dream perhaps, so lifelike and real that you could almost swear it actually happened?  Maybe . . . you’re one of the millions of us who did inhale, way back there in college . . . or even one who tried some of the harder stuff: coke, LSD, magic mushrooms (as peyote was once called), or some of the newer synthesized drugs: Angel Dust (PCP), a methamphetamine based synthetic that produces euphoric and hallucinatory effects in those who’ve ingested it. If you’ve answered any of those hypothetical questions with a ‘yes,
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The Night Ranger

The Night Ranger

Mysterious Book Report No. 100

by John Dwaine McKenna

Okay.  We admit it . . . this one is special . . . one we’ve been looking forward to for a while.  It’s our Double Diamond Jubilee:  MBR number 100.  That’s right . . . this is our one hundredth book review.  And it’s just in time for the start of the summer reading season, so kick back and relax with your favorite adult beverage . . . and enjoy! This week’s MBR makes for great summertime reading by an author I hadn’t heard of before although he has a number of adventure, thriller and spy novels to his credit.  He’s been hailed as “one of the best espionage writers" by the
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City of Saints

Mysterious Book Report No. 99

by John Dwaine McKenna

I’m willing to bet that most Americans don’t know jack about Mormons, or Mormonism, or Salt Lake City, Utah . . . the heart of the Mormon empire.  If they happen to be a little more savvy than their follow citizens, some few might recognize the Mormon Tabernacle choir from their Christmas concerts on television, or the BYUCollege football and basketball teams, and of course Mitt Romney, the former governor of Massachusetts and Republican presidential candidate, is perhaps the best-known Mormon in the entire country.  But most folks don’t know that Mormons do not use curse words or drink alcohol, smoke, lie or steal, that they devote two years
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Extinction

Mysterious Book Report No. 98

by John Dwaine McKenna

Ever heard about something called the Singularity?  It’s an interesting noun with a couple of different meanings.  First, according to my Oxford English Language Dictionary, there’s the general definition:  The state or condition of being singular.  Then there’s the math & physics usage: The point at which something becomes infinite.  The third, and for our purposes the most interesting definition, is capitalized.  The Singularity: A point in the future, estimated to be around 2030, beyond which overwhelming technical changes . . . especially the development of superhuman intelligence . . . make reliable predictions impossibl
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The Black Box

Mysterious Book Report No. 97

by John Dwaine McKenna

Now that the idea of spring is finally a reality, winter's been banished until years end and new life is springing up in every direction, we're putting a new heading at the top of the old MBR.  It just seemed like it was the right thing to do, but we'd like to know what you feel about it.  If you think it's great—just about the best thing to come along since hip pockets or sliced bread—kindly let Mrs. Brown know about it, as she worked long and hard to design it.  (lora@rhyolitepress.com)  If not . . . please let yours truly know . . . contact info is at the end of this and every column.  As Elvis said, "Thank you.  Thankyouverymuc
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Ratlines

Mysterious Book Report No. 96

by John Dwaine McKenna

It’s well known, well documented fact that after World War II in Europe, many National Socialists . . . Nazism tried to avoid answering for their war crimes by fleeing to Argentina and Brazil.  Others like Werner Von Braun and his racketeers from Peenemunde; a place that used slave labor from concentration camps in hidden underground factories to produce the V-one and V-two rockets which so devastated and terrorized London, were brought to America to be the progenitors of the American space effort.  Still others were commandeered by the Soviet Union for their fledgling space and ballistic missile programs.  All of that is comm
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Mysterious Book Report No. 95

by John Dwaine McKenna

Secretly, every writer fantasizes about their book becoming a best seller.  Whether it's fiction or non, every person pecking at a computer keyboard, or scritching away on yellow foolscap late into the night, harbors a dream of being heard: that their words and ideas will be so compelling, great masses of readers will pay attention to what they've written.  It's a dream few realize.  The thing is though, in spite of the odds against it, some lucky few really do win the lottery, and that keeps all the rest of us buying tickets . . . or writing more books.  This week's Mysterious Book Report is about one of those rare first novels which become bestsellers.  A book so well done and illuminating, it impacted and he
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Mysterious Book Report No. 94

by John Dwaine McKenna

There's a special interest that we readers should be aware of and give some attention to:  first novels.  They have an aura about them because they encapsulate a lifetime of thought, expression and experience.  (Or in some cases, inexperience . . . ) It makes no difference if the author is eight or eighty, they'll put the sum total of their life's events into the body of their first novel.  And, as such, some of them are exceptional.  They're the little gems we try to find and bring to your attention; the first-time author with something to say that we all want to hear.  And don't worry, from time-to-time we'll review the big guns as well, the A-list favorites like Michael Connolly and Lawrence Block, the gian
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Mysterious Book Report No. 93

by John Dwaine McKenna

Existentialism is a word that was often tossed around in discussions on college campuses back in the 60s when we were all busily self-absorbed discovering ourselves.  The word existentialism means "a philosophical theory or approach that emphasizes the existence of the individual person as a free and responsible agent determining their own development through acts of will," according to my Oxford English Dictionary.  As Popeye the sailor man so simply and eloquently put it; “I yam what I yam.”  And I yam what I yam because I made it so.  This week’s MBR No. 93 is an existentialist work of crime fiction that comes from Japan.  It won the Oe Japanese Prize for fiction, the equivalent of winning the Pulitzer
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Mysterious Book Report No. 92

by John Dwaine McKenna

. . . the intersection of science and religion. It's always been impossible for me personally to be well-informed about the world's religions and a believer in church dogma at the same time.  The more I've learned the more confusing it all seems, because on one hand, the world's religions all offer succor in times of distress, preach love and peace to all mankind . . . BUT . . . on the other hand, religion has been the basis for wars and deaths by mega-millions since time immemorial.  It could be that that's true because deep down, all religionists, convinced about the right-ness of their beliefs . . . want to impose their values on others by any means possible.  So there, I've said it; I am skeptical about reli
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Mysterious Book Report No.91

by John Dwaine McKenna

It is an unfortunate truth that the folks who lived through the hard years of the Great Depression are dying off at a rapid pace.  Every day more and more of them, and their hard-won wisdom, are being lost to us.  You know who they are . . . the elderly ones who live as frugally as possible, wasting nothing and saving or putting to use everything from rubber bands to glass jars, grocery sacks to metal coat hangers.  Why do they do it?  I think it's because they've lived through hard times . . . and they're savvy and smart . . . therefore they take nothing for granted, leave nothing in their control to chance, because they all remember just how hard it was to live through the 1930's.  They stand in my mind at le
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The Whim-Wham Man review Norma Engleberg

 Note: The following review by Norma Engleberg appeared in The Tri-Lakes Tribune, published in Monument, Colorado by Our Colorado News Corp. Used by permission.
 
 

Special MBR No 2

 
Novel Set in Husted tells a difficult story Norma Engelberg nengelberg@ourcoloradonews.com Posted: Wednesday, January 2, 2013 11:06 am
  John Dwaine McKenna's newest novel starts out with understatement. In the words of 15-year-old Jamey McGoran, "The Whim-Wham man's story ain't easy to tell." It wasn't easy to write, either. As the author says on the book's back cover, "There's no sanita
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Mysterious Book Report No. 90

by John Dwaine McKenna

All my life, I've had a fascination with and a thirst for knowledge of the great conflagration and tragedy known as World War II.  Could be it's because I was born just a year after the end of it . . . and perhaps because my father and most of his generation, the fathers of friends and schoolmates were veterans of it, that I grew up with constant reminders of the war.  It's not the most recent war, but it's the last one that the United   States fought to win, no holds barred, no quarter asked or given, until the unconditional surrender of all of the belligerents opposing the U.S. and it's allies.  And maybe the reason World War II holds such fascination for many of us is because somewhere, back in the most anted
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Mysterious Book Report No. 89

by John Dwaine McKenna

We’re taking a quantum leap of the imagination with this week’s Mysterious Book Report, from eighteenth century Sweden, to twenty-first century Yemen.  Yemen, for those wanting a little bit of remedial geography, (yeah, me too . . .) is located to the south of Saudi   Arabia and shares a long, undefined boarder with it called the Empty Quarter.  The Empty Quarter contains vast, untapped oil reserves and rebellious tribesmen at war with the south of Yemen.  South Yemen itself sits strategically on the mouth of the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden, putting Yemen in an ideal position to control a choke-point of the world’s oil shipments.  Throw in a weak, ineffectual government, an Al-Qaeda presence that’s get
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Mysterious Book Report No. 88

by John Dwaine McKenna

After the wild ride we took with last week's cultish thriller, (Gun Church, MBR 87)  I wanted to find another equally compelling novel, but one that's the polar opposite in content, style and focus.  Dame Fortune smiled and sent all of us a beautifully-written debut novel that's historical fiction at it's very best.  It combines history, romance, political intrigue, danger, scandal, conspiracy and a bit of magic for good measure.  It's the perfect antidote for the winter blahs and the relentless unending depression of current events. The Stockholm Octavo, (Harper-Collins-ECCO, $26.99, 421 pages, ISBN 978-0-06-199534-7) by Karen Englemann takes place in Stockholm, Sweden at the end of the eighteent
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Mysterious Book Report No. 87

by John Dwaine McKenna

I wasn’t sure about reviewing this week’s MBR after the shootings in Newtown, Connecticut and elsewhere.  But after thinking about it for a while and seeking advice from friends on both sides of the issue, I’m going ahead with it.  Some may see it as insensitive on my part, and I’m prepared to take the heat for it, while pointing out to everyone that simply ignoring the problem will not make it go away.  Neither will a knee-jerk reactionary piece of legislation passed in haste and regretted at length.  I hope time and grief will allow cooler thoughts and a more rational response . . . but with the Confederacy of Clowns that We, the people, have running the circus in Washington, D.C. which we call the Uni
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Mysterious Book Report No. 84

by John Dwaine McKenna

I swore I’d never do it again.  Took the pledge and promised that was it, I’d never touch the stuff again and I meant it.  I really did.  But then, over time my resolve weakened.  Things happened.  Life, with all of its trials and tribulations, intervened.  Day-by-day I felt myself slipping . . . finally I could stand it no more.  I gave in to my craving and pure animal lust took over.  I was powerless, washed away in a flood of self-loathing and pity, as I gave in to my reptilian sub-conscious.  And . . . I’m almost ashamed to admit it . . . I read another vampire novel. The Twelve, (Ballentine Books, $28.00, 568 pages, ISBN 978-0-345-50498) by Justin Cronin is the second of his epic vampire
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Mysterious Book Report No. 86

by John Dwaine McKenna

Do you ever wish you were a kid again?  To go back in time when learning was easy and quick for you?  When your biggest worry was coming up with your share of the rent?  Do you like quests; the hunt for the priceless artifacts that belong to all of humanity, but somehow were lost or hidden long ago?  Are you a reader?  One who loves computers?  If you've answered 'Yes' to any or all of the above questions, this week's MBR is for you, because it's all of those things rolled up into one neat package.  It's a quirky, not easily classifiable novel titled Mr. Penumbra's 24-hour Bookstore, (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $25.00, 288 pages, ISBN 978-0-374-21491-3) by Robin Sloan, and it's a bibliographic delight
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Mysterious Book Report No. 85

by John Dwaine McKenna

Some years from now, when future historians examine and analyze the early twentieth century and the factors leading up to the first World War, one of them will pay particular attention to the Mexican Revolution.  Then, as now, Mexico had a prickly relationship with the United   States.  With mechanized war on an industrial scale looming in Europe; Mexico was a prime source of the oil needed to run those armies.  As such she was courted by Germany, who, like the English, had converted their navy from coal to oil.  At the same time, inequities in wealth, land reform and social structure had led to the mexican peasant revolution.  It was headed up by the legendary Doroteo Arango, known to all the world as Pancho
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Newest News

BS & Donkey Dust #27 - Tuesday, February 19, 2013 Colorado   Springs, CO Where the prairie ends and the west begins Hello the blogiverse and all you ethernet surfers out there in the electronic haze . . . Today is a special day for a couple of reasons.  First, we're proud, happy, and excited to announce that ten of the best-loved stories from the award winning Neversink Chronicles are now available individually on your Kindle eReader for less than a dollar!  That's right for just 99 cents you can enjoy your favorite chronicle.  Check it out by requesting John Dwaine McKenna on your Kindle.  They'll pop right up.  Tell your friends . . . and enjoy! The other reason today is special is because it's Ms. June's (Mrs. McKenna) birthday.
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Is Anyone There?

 by: John Dwaine McKenna BS & Donkey Dust #26 Tuesday, 1/30/2013 Colorado Springs, CO

Where the prairie ends and the west begins

Hello the blogiverse and all you ethernet surfers out there in the electronic haze . . . Is anybody there?  Is anyone reading this?  H E L L O ?  Anybody out there . . . please call or write.  Let me know we're not alone . . . Hey seriously, I've just finished reading two great novels.  The first is The Hot Country, by Robert Olen Butler.  It's historical fiction about the Mexican Civil War and Pancho Villa.  The second one is Gun
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Mysterious Book Report No. 83

by John Dwaine McKenna

Back in the nineteenth century, Mark Twain wrote, “There is no distinctly American criminal class . . . except Congress.”  If he was still living today, he might amend that to say, “. . . except Congress and Wall Street Operators,” because as anyone who pays the least bit of attention to the news knows, hardly a month goes by without a new scandal or criminal malfeasance of some kind on Wall Street erupting into public awareness.  There are a couple of reasons for this: One, financial services are heavily regulated and often litigated and two Wall Street is chock full of fear and greed.  Combined, they’re a volatile mixture that's bound to generate scams, scammers, losses and lawsuits, heartbreak and hi
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Mysterious Book Report No. 82

by John Dwaine McKenna

One of the things I try to do each week in the Mysterious Book Report is to find new and interesting authors to review.  The reason is because we’re looking for our next favorite author, rather than covering the old favorites . . . who’re already getting plenty of ink from the relentless publicity departments of big machine publishers, who control the majority of novels and books being brought out these days . . . who crank out book after book after (Ugh!) book that mostly look, feel and read the same because their last one sold and the publisher is adverse to risk. The problem with finding new authors is that we have to explore . . . and depend on the recommendations of others.  Usually this work
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Mysterious Book Report No. 81

by John Dwaine McKenna

This week’s MBR is different.  It’s different because the novel we’re reviewing represents a new type of fiction that blends two different genres together.  In this instance a crime drama is combined with elements of the supernatural.  Think Sam Spade meets Steven King and you’ve got the general idea.  As an enthusiast of both of the aforementioned, The Wrath of Angels, (Atria, $26.00, 481 pages, ISBN 978-1-444-75644-9) by John Connolly was right up my alley.  So much so, that I bought the British first edition instead of waiting for the US publication date of January 2013.  I’m glad I did.  While the novel could be called simply “gothic crime fiction.” It’s much more than that because
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The Denver Broncos Morning After Blues

The Denver Broncos Morning After Blues

 

BS & Donkey Dust #25 - Sunday, January 13, 2013 Colorado Springs, CO Where the prairie ends and the west begins Bronco Nation, of which I am a member, is in mourning today after Saturday’s hard-fought, but stunning loss to the Baltimore Ravens in the bitter cold of Denver’s Invesco Field at Mile High Stadium.  I don’t do shoudda-woudda-coudda, leaving that to the sports nerds and Monday morning quarterbacks.  Instead, I’ll just thank the team for a great 13-4 season, and Peyton Manning for raising everybody’s expectations, game so high.  2012 will live in our collective memories as the almost season.  They almost did it.  Almost got
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Mysterious Book Report No. 80

by John Dwaine McKenna

Had to dig down to the bottom back of the bookshelf for this week’s Mysterious Book Report.  It’s one that’s been out for a time, having been published in the mid 1990’s.  I read it years ago and passed the volume on to someone else . . . which I came to regret as I was writing The Neversink Chronicles, because it’s about the same subject: dam building and the confiscation of private property.  Now, thanks to the efforts of my beautiful wife June . . . who haunts the local used bookstores like a literary wraith . . . I have a near-mint copy of Bucking The Sun, (Simon & Shuster, 1996, $23.00, 410 pages, ISBN 0-684-81171-5) by Ivan Doig to review.  Although you may have to enlist the he
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BS & Donkey Dust # 24

Happy New Year

BS & Donkey Dust # 24 - January 08, 2013 Colorado   Springs, Colorado Where the prairie ends and the west begins   Hello the blogiverse and all you ethernet surfers out there in the electronic haze . . . Well, it's the New Year already and I need to get my act together . . . No more missed blogs; I promise.  Cross-my-heart and stuff.  I won't.  I won't forget to post these. The Whim-Wham Man is starting to generate good press with reviews in The Pueblo Chieftain, The Tri-Lakes Tribune and on Amazon.  Many thanks to all those leaving reviews on eBooks too! --JDM
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Mysterious Book Report No.79

                                                                                              by John Dwaine McKenna Happy New Year to you and yours. I'm looking forward to a year filled with new and exciting thrillers, mysteries, and whodunits of every kind; from police procedurals to courtroom dramas, from hard case crime to a couple of science fictions, we’ll review them all . . . and throw in few surprises too. I’m itching to get going, so come along, the Mysterious Book Report is just getting started for 2013. Hop on . . . it’s gonna be a great fun ride. I wanted to start the New Year with something exceptional, something truly ou

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You’re An Idiot If . . .

BS & Donkey Dust # 23 - December 19, 2012 Colorado Springs, CO Where the prairie ends and the west begins Hello blogiverse and all of you ethernet surfers out there in the electronic haze . . . So . . . What are you planning to do the day after tomorrow, Friday the 21st of December 2012 . . . the day the world is supposed to end according to some ding-dongs and talking heads out there who got the information straight from their decoder ring that's dialed in to the rhythms of the cosmos . . . HEY OUT THERE - - - CAN YOU HEAR ME NOW? Anyone who believes that the date is 12-21-12 is the last day IS AN IDIOT!! An 'edjit' as my old Irish gramma would've said. A stone fecking edjit. See you next Wednesday 12-26-12. --JDM
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Mysterious Book Report No. 78

by John Dwaine McKenna

  Although it hardly seems possible it's only a few days until Christmas, and this is the last MBR for the year 2012.  Truth is, it's going to be a welcome break from the weekly push to read a book and write a five to seven-hundred word column, type, edit and correct it, send it in to The Townsman and post it to a blog, on time . . . especially to a natural born procrastinator like myself.  So this week's review will be smooth, short and as sweet as a Christmas eggnog. The novel is titled simply Sutton, (Hyperion, $27.99, 334 pages, ISBN 978-1-4013-2314-1) by Pulitzer Prize winning author J.R. Moehringer.  Some astute readers will no doubt recognize the name from his best selling
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Mysterious Book Report No. 77

by John Dwaine McKenna

Woof-woof-woof.  There’s an old saw that goes like this:  You can’t teach an old dog new tricks, that I learned from my mother’s mother when I was just a little boy.  Superstitious to the end, “Nanny,” as Grandma O’Toole was called, set store by it and many others like it. Well . . . without any disrespect to dear old Nanny . . . I’ve gotta say that that’s a whole bunch of hooey.  Because, now as a fully-matured hound with gray whiskers about the snout, born on the cutting edge of the Boomer generation in 1946 and a couple of decades older than the current occupant of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue; I learn new things all the time.  How?  By reading of course.  This is, after all
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Turkey Day Recap

BS & Donkey Dust #22 - November 28,2012 Colorado   Springs, CO Where the prairie ends and the west begins Hello the blogiverse and all you internet surfers out there in the electronic haze . . . Wow!  I don't know about you but I'm still so full of turkey and football that I am almost in a coma.  That was Friday the twenty-third. On Saturday, the twenty-fourth, we were in Monument, Colorado signing copies of The Whim-Wham Man and The Drift.  Met a lot of new friends and signed a lot of books and had a jolly old time with Tommie and Paula who run The Covered Treasures Bookstore.  Monument is a beautiful small town that's about twenty miles north of Colorado Springs  and twenty miles south of Castle Rock; right on I-25.
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Mysterious Book Report No.75

by John Dwaine McKenna

Part II

A Tribute to James Lee Burke

Creole Bell, (Simon & Shuster, $27.99, 528 pages, ISBN 978-1-4516-4813-3) by James Lee Burke, begins in Indian summer with a torpid Dave Robicheaux in the hospital recovering from gunshot wounds.  He's on a morphine drip for pain and very uncomfortable.  He has a history of alcohol and drug addiction, and is a long-standing member of AA, Alcoholics Anonymous . . . the twelve-step program that's helped so many people to control their illness . . . one day at a time.  In the second paragraph of his narrative Robicheaux makes this observation: "Those who have had the following experience w
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Closer To The Big Time

Colorado   Springs, CO Where the prairie ends and the west begins  Hello the blogiverse and all you web surfers out there in the electronic haze . . . FLASH !  Big news from Rhyolite Press, Bert Entwistle and John Dwaine McKenna are being interviewed this afternoon by Norma Engelberg of Colorado Community Media.  She's the community editor for the Pikes Peak Courier View and The Tribune in Mounment, CO.  Look for our interview at http://www.ourcoloradonews.com this weeks edition and our BS & Donkey Dust Blog next week! Hope to see you there. --JDM
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Mysterious Book Report No. 74

by John Dwaine McKenna

Part I

A Tribute to James Lee Burke

Twenty-some years ago, at a time when we only had one vehicle, I was waiting in the car for my wife, June, to get off work, listening to a woman named Terri Gross interview a crime-fiction writer about his latest book.  The writer’s name was James Lee Burke and his book featured an iconic character he'd created: a Louisiana police detective named Dave Robicheaux.  (pronounced ROW-ba-show)  I can’t remember which of Mr. Burke’s novels he was talking about, but I’m certain it was one of the first two or three.  In listening to the description of both the character and the plot, it dawned on m
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Great news about a book signing

Colorado Springs, CO Where the west begins and the prairie ends   Great News!  Personally very excited!!

A Book Signing

When:  Saturday Nov 24, 2012

11:00 to 1:00

Where:  The Covered Treasures Bookstore

105 2nd Street

Monument, Co 

719-481-2665

John Dwaine McKenna will be there with his newest publication, The Whim-Wham Man.  This is a story that takes place about 12 miles north of Colorado Springs in 1940.  It’s a coming-of-age story
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Mysterious Book Report No. 73

by John Dwaine McKenna

The election is almost here and everyone is worn out from the non-stop campaigning and rhetoric.  My lifetime has encompassed twelve presidents and almost twice as many campaigns for president, and I can honestly say here and now in writing, for all the world to see, that I cannot remember any of the others which seemed so long, so full of invective or so full of confusing claims.  Yikes!  It's been a long strange trip and it's going to be nice to not hear any more, "are we there yets?"  Yes, Children.  We are.  Be sure to vote next Tuesday. Given the strange atmosphere we've been living in; and of course today's proximity to Halloween; we wanted to find a book to review that was appropriat
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Mysterious Book Report No. 72

Here's a great oxymoron for you:  hallucinatory reality.  Makes you scratch your head and go, "Huh?" doesn't it.  That's what I did when I heard it on NPR this morning.  Of course, I was half asleep at the time, so I checked it first thing when I turned the computer on; but no, I had it right.  Hallucinatory reality, that's what the work of a Chinese writer named Mo Yan, who's the current darling of the communist party leaders, has been labeled by the illuminati of the book universe.  And that, I guess is the reason the Nobel committee awarded him this year's Nobel Prize for Literature and 1.2 million dollars.  He's been called "China's answer to Franz Kafka," and his writings include novels such as Big Breasts and Wide Hips; Life and D
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Great News!

Colorado Springs, CO Where the west begins and the prairie ends   Great News!  Personally very excited!!

A Book Signing

When:  Saturday Nov 24, 2012

11:00 to 1:00

Where:  The Covered Treasures Bookstore

105 2nd Street

Monument, Co 

719-481-2665

John Dwaine McKenna will be there with his newest publication, The Whim-Wham Man.  This is a story that takes place about 12 miles north of Colorado Springs in 1940.  It’s a coming-of-age story
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Sweet Success At Last

Colorado Springs, CO  Where the prairie ends and the west begins  Hello the blogiverse and all you web surfers out there in the electronic haze . . . Jus
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Mysterious Book Report No. 71

Do you ever get the urge, to just jump in the car with a full tank and drive until you run out of gas . . . never having a destination in mind . . . never knowing where you're going until you get there? It's a great daydream for a little while, leave all your worries and cares behind, become a twenty-first century drifter. But then, reality creeps in.  Who'll take care of the kids, feed the cat, cut the grass, pay the phone bill, take out the trash . . . all of those million and one things we have to do in our everyday lives?  All of the sudden you're back to square one, thinking about jumping in the old
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Mysterious Book Report No. 70

It's looking a lot like fall in Colorado.  From my perch up here on the mesa, I'm seeing a lot of yellow among the green  of the urban forest and the leaves are rapidly falling away up in the high country; those elevations just above Colorado Springs at seven to eleven thousand feet, where the air is too thin and the sun too bright for them to grow.  Pikes Peak, at just over fourteen thousand feet is wearing a crown of snow and my joints are already telegraphing me that winter is just around the next page of the calendar.  But, ha-ha Jack Frost, I'm fully prepared for cold weather with a well-stocked pantry, plenty of firewood  and a library of books to read a
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BS & Donkey Dust

The Publishing Empire

Colorado Springs, CO Where the prairie ends and the west begins Hello the blogiverse and all you 'net surfers out there in the electronic haze . . . The publishing empire of Rhyolite Press LLC got a wee bit bigger last week with the first printing of our newest book, The Drift, by Bert Entwistle.  It's an environmental thriller featuring Special Agent Jack Bannister of the Environmental Protection Agency.  He's hot on the trail of a gang of organized criminals in an exciting chase that takes place deep in the abandoned mineshafts under Cripple Creek, Colorado, "The world's greatest gold camp."  It's an exciting debut novel from this distinguished author of hundreds of magazine articles.  You
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Mysterious Book Report No. 69

It's been a wild week around here; the old hacienda became a regular beehive of activity, some good, some not so great.  The good: The Whim-Wham Man is in print, in hand, in house and ready for delivery.  And, we'll be at Mountains and Plains Booksellers Association's Fall Trade Show in Denver this Thursday (20 September) signing copies at the Renaissance Hilton.  Am I excited?  Hell yes . . . wouldn't you be? Then, there's the not so good news; the downright crummy news.  Because of procrastination, a computer glitch and squabbling about cover details . . . The Drift, our other new b
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BS & Donkey Dust #15

Trade Show Part II

  Colorado Springs, CO Where the prairie ends and the west begins   Hello the blogiverse and all you internet surfers out there in the electronic haze . . . We’re ba-a-a-a-ack, with part two of the fall 2012 Mountains and Plains Bookseller’s Association Trade Show . . .
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Mysterious Book Report No. 68

There’s gonna be a big party at our house tonight, stop by if you got a chance.  Why are we having a shindig in the middle of a work week, you ask?  Well, no sniggering or guffawing out there . . . but the reason we are throwing a big bash is because it has finally rained in Colorado   Springs.  Not some little old shower for fifteen minutes of thunder and lightning either.  Nope.  It started precipitating just before dawn, about 6 a.m., then continued all day and most of the following night before it quit.  Hallelujah, hallelujah, hallelujah and thanks to old mother nature for the relief.  It’s been parched out here: year-to-date precipitation six inches . . . our normal is fourteen and our reservoirs are only 57 percent full instead of the usual
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BS & Donkey Dust No. 14

The Trade Show 

Colorado Springs, CO Where the prairie ends and the west begins. Hello blogiverse and all you internet surfers out there in the electronic haze . . . We're just back from the Bi
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Mysterious Book Report No. 67

Waaay back in the early 1960's, when dinosaurs still roamed the earth and regular gasoline was 32.9 cents per gallon at my dad's Texaco station on Main   Street in Grahamsville, New York, a high school teacher named Manville B. Wakefield sparked an interest in American History in me that has remained all my life.  It was the centennial of the Civil War and "Wake," as he preferred being called, was involved in writing a book, with Inez George Gridley and a couple of others about the 143rd New York Volunteers, the infantry regiment from Sullivan County.  He was the driving force, chair of the county centennial commission, and responsible for every element of this beautiful and now rare, book.  Each illustration was hand drawn by him, including the map that g
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Trade Show

Colorado Springs, CO   It's been a helluva month this week, and no, that's not a typo; it just seems like there's been a month's worth of problems just in this past week.  But the good news is we got almost all of them solved.  Why all the hubbub? This Thursday, the twentieth of September, is the opening night of the Annual Trade Show for the Mountains and Plains Bookseller Association, and Bert Entwistle and I have three hours scheduled to meet and greet . . . and sign our two new books. The Drift for Bert and The Whim-Wham Man for me. We've been on a high-intensity, full warp speed ahead, with all photon torpedoes locked and loaded program to get both books completed, printed and here, ready to sign and deliver to all the booksto
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Mysterious Book Report No. 66

This will be a special . . . and different . . . MBR.  Special because it's number sixty-six, which always reminds me of the Mother   Road from The Grapes of Wrath, also known formally as the Will   Rogers Highway; it is, of course the iconic Route 66.  It was born as part of the US Highway System on November 11, 1926, and was immortalized in Steinbeck's novel about the Okie migration to California in the 1930's.  It connected the city of Chicago to Los Angeles by the way of Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New   Mexico and Arizona.  When I was in high school, there was a TV program called Route 66.  It was about two guys who traveled around in a Corvette convertible and had adventures, which usually involved pretty young women in d
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FAN MAIL

Colorado   Springs, Colorado Hey everyone out there in the blogosphere: Every writer loves hearing from their readers.  Here's a recent one that came by email and had us smiling for the rest of the day.  We'd like to share it with all of you . . . Hi John: "We were in Peter's Whole Foods Market on Wednesday and saw The Neversink Chronicles sales display on the counter.  Frank pointed it out, and one of the young girls that works at Peter's Market was standing by.  I asked her, "Are they signed copies?" Her response was "Oh, yes," followed by some great commentary.  Not only did she explain that every copy was signed, but that the author was from the area, and . . . I let her go on and when she was done, asked if she liked the book and of cou
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Apologies

Sorry everyone !! I had forgot to post our Mysterious Book Reports to the blog !!  I am caught up now but again I apologize !!  You have a lot to read now !!!   Thank you, Lora Brown Rhyolite Press
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Mysterious Book Report No. 65

One of the best things about being a reviewer is never knowing what's going to turn up next.  One of the worst things about being a reviewer is bumping up against a deadline and being unprepared . . . or even kind of unprepared . . . like today.  I've read the book, but haven't written the review and, just like Alice's white rabbit, "I'm late, I'm late, for a very important date.  No time to say hello goodbye I'm late, I'm late, I'm late." Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland pushed the limits of literature when it was first published in 1865 and compared to the effusive, flowery and formalized style of writing so prevalent at the time, Alice, with it's drug-induced imagery and cast of outrageous characters must have seemed like a bolt of l
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Mysterious Book Report No. 64

It is an acknowledged truth and accepted fact that we are witnessing the death-struggles of the daily newspaper.  Newer, faster methods of news gathering and information distribution has eclipsed them.  As one who has been a newspaper affectionato since the age of four . . . when I could only read the ‘funny pages’ as the comics were called . . . I’m sad to see them go, and mourn their passing.  And while the daily papers are in trouble, the weeklies are just fine at present, as they’re vehicles for hometown news and advertising and operate on a skeletal budget, dependent on volunteerism to put out each edition.  The plain truth of the matter is that all of the downsizing and bankruptcies have put a helluva lot of write
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Mysterious Book Report No. 63

A few weeks ago, I made some lists, based on preliminary reviews from publishers and booksellers for summer reading fun.  One of the books on the list was Harbor Nocturne, (Mysterious Press, $27.00, 320 pages, ISBN 978-0-8021-2610-8) by Joseph Wambaugh.  He's a retired LAPD detective with twenty-some-odd books to his credit, all revolving around the Los Angeles Police Department.  I consider them to be among the best of a sub-genre in crime fiction known as police procedurals.  The term means exactly what it says; they're written about cops and detail their procedures.  Wambaugh's are cream of the crop because they're exact, based on his personal experience
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Mysterious Book Report No. 62

How's your summer going?  Doesn't it seem amazing how fast it goes by compared to how long it takes to get here?  It seems like forever when we're waiting for the leaves to green up compared to how long they stay that way.  All too soon, they put on their fall colors, drop away and it's back to cold weather, football and hockey, basketball and skiing.  Oh, and of course . . . it's back to school time.  School is, as Dickens sort of put it, the best of times or the worst of times, depending on which student, and at what time, one asks.  For some, the popular and outgoing ones, school years are some of their best.  But for others, the shy, introverted and lonely on
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Mysterious Book Report No. 61

The great conflagration and inferno known as the Waldo Canyon Fire has been put out.  It consumed nearly 18,000 acres of the Pike National Forest, 346 homes and 2 lives.  It took thousands and thousand of man hours, a fleet of air tankers and helicopters, more than 1,000 federal wildfire fighters and God only knows how many professional firefighters from metropolitan Colorado Springs and nearby cities . . . brave men and women all . . . who went toe-to-toe with the firestorm, battling and beating it back, inch by inch, foot by foot or house by house and tree by tree until it was no more.  They are all heros.  They all went about their duties with a professionalism, dedication and det
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Mysterious Book Report No. 60

Hey everyone, this is a continuation of last week's column, MBR NO. 59, about summer reading suggestions.  Last week we had 1. Gone Girl, by Gillian Flynn, 2. Amped, by Daniel Wilson, and 3. The Third Gate, by Lincoln Child. Here's seven more to fill out your summer reading list. 4.  Broken Harbor, (Viking, $27.95) by Tanya French, features detective Mick Kennedy and the Dublin Murder Squad trying to solve the murder of a family man and two of his children, an attack that left his wife in
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Mysterious Book Report No. 59

Whew!  It's been a scorching hot summer so far, and there doesn't seem to be a lot of relief on the way.  We've got eight out-of-control forest fires raging in different parts of Colorado as I'm writing this, and a lunatic arsonist here locally who's set thirty small fires at last count.  All of which, fortunately, have been put out before they did major damage like the 4500 acre one that's threatening the west side of Colorado Springs, Manitou Springs and another handful of small villages further west of here that encircle the northwest flank of Pikes Peak; an area known as Ute Pass.  Colorado Springs has fifty-seven contiguous miles of boarder with National Forest service land, all
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Mysterious Book Report No. 58

We live in what’s been called the Information Age, because the past 25 years have seen the rise of computer technology and the invention of the World Wide Web.  We’re all linked together with access to data and instant information retrieval with devices that were the stuff of science fiction and the comics as recently as a few years ago.  Does anyone remember Dick Tracy and his "two-way wrist radio?"  Or holy smokes, his “two-way wrist TV?” Chester Gould, the cartoonist used to write that and draw little arrows pointing to the watch.  The arrows were small curved ones and always had a little circle where the feathers would normally be.  Today, we’re obsessed with information, and how to store, manage and retrieve it,
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Mysterious Book Report No. 57

It’s an undisputed fact that the Twentieth Century was the absolute bloodiest in human history.  The Twentieth opened up with the Boer War, in which the British Empire asserted its sovereignty over South Africa at the expense of the white Afrikaans settlers and their German allies.  In rapid succession came World War I, “the Great War,” as it was called back then, the Easter Rising in Ireland, the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution, the second Irish uprising and Civil War, the Spanish Civil War, World War II, Korea, the Chinese Revolution, Vietnam, the Balkans and Mid-East wars to close the century.  The century also saw several genocides:  the Soviet Union, Armenia, Cambodia, and China come to mind, as do innumerable nasty wars i
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Mysterious Book Report No. 56

My name is John Dwaine McKenna, and I approved this message.

“It’s a pleasure to burn.”  Those are the opening words of the iconic novel, Fahrenheit 451.  The man who wrote them, Ray Bradbury, died yesterday in California at the age of 91 . . . he was a giant in the science-fiction field, and one of the first writers to transcend genre into literature.  He was a supporter of libraries and an arch enemy of censorship of any kind, and he will be sorely missed by his millions of fans around the world.  R.I.P. Mr. Bradbury, secure in the knowledge that your supporters everywhere will continue your fight against mind-control and censorship in a
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Mysterious Book Report No 55

So, how did everyone in Grahamsville do with Steve Hamilton last week?  You know, the Edgar award winner.  He signed books on Friday, the fifteenth of June at the Daniel Pierce Library.  I hope you all turned out in large numbers. We're continuing with the Edgar winners this week, reviewing the 2012 recipient of the Best Book Award.  He's a British author named Mo Hayder, and his novel is Gone, (Atlantic Monthly Press, $24.00, 416 pages, ISBN 978-0802119643).  This novel is the latest installment of an ongoing series featuring inspector Jack Caffery and Sergeant Flea Marley.  They have had an
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Mysterious Book Report No. 54

Hello everyone out there in the ether, newspaper-land, and all the ships at sea.  As I am writing this column today is Monday, the 21st of May.  What’s that got to do with anything, you ask?  After all, as you're seeing it in today’s newspaper, blog, or Facebook page, it’s the third week of June; Thursday, the 21st to be exact.  Whazzup? The answer is that it's the lag time between creating the column, production, and distribution of it, to your consumption of it.  The time lapse however, changes the value of the information that is news today . . . but just plain old facts four weeks from now, gives me a chance to comment on the value of information . . . when i
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Mysterious Book Report No 53

This week's MBR is a special one for me as it marks my second year of writing them at one per week for every issue of The Townsman without missing a single issue.  Wow . . . I can hardly believe it, but it is a fact, so this one's sorta special to me.  It's also going to be noteworthy for a couple of other reasons, one celebratory and other arcane.  The arcane, or mysterious reason is because it coincides with the Bloomsday celebration in Ireland on June 16th.  That's the day revelers and fans of James Joyce's infamous novel Ulysses show up in Dublin dressed in period clothes to celebrate the day that Leopold Bloom, the main character spent walking around Dublin doi
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Mysterious Book Report No 52

Over the next three or four weeks, who knows, maybe longer, we'll review some of the novels, and the novelists, who've been awarded and Edgar.  The Edgars are given each spring by the Mystery Writers of America (MWA) for the best mysteries of the year in several categories, but our focus will be on two of them: The Best Book of the Year, and The Best First Novel.  Edgar is short for Edgar Allen Poe, widely recognized as the father of the mystery genre.  Winning one is like winning the Super Bowl, the World Series or an Oscar.  Yeah, it's at least that hard, maybe more so because novels don't get written in the time it takes to play one game, or several games for that matter.  They t
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Mysterious Book Report No. 51

Memorial day weekend is by tradition the start of summer, and the beginning of vacation season.  It's when we look forward to ice cream, baseball and garage sales . . . as well as "lazy hazy days," halter tops, short shorts, sandals and flowers blooming for three months or more.  A lot of us think it's the best time of the year . . . when we hop in the car and go places to see things.  And that's why I'm kicking off the summer reading season with one of the most kick-ass road trip novels I've read since Jack Kerouac. The novel is Head Games, (the Hector Lassiter Series, Black House Books, PB, 20
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OOPS

Colorado Springs, CO August 23, 2012 Oops! So sorry I forgot that Wednesday comes before Thursday, on Tuesday.  So I didn't get this blog in on time, my fault entirely. The blog this week is that there won't be a blog this Wed Aug 22 or Aug 29. We'll be back on September 5th with all new BS and Donkey Dust.
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3 Rules for the Blind and Baffled

Colorado   Springs, CO I spend a lot of time in the cobweb filled attic of my mind, poking around in dusty old boxes and trunks, looking for interesting stuff to write about.  Sometimes I find gold . . . others . . . nothing but junk.  Those are the days I can’t blind ‘em with brilliance so I wind up in the baffle with bullshit camp.  You know: The next door neighbor’s orangutan got loose and broke into our house and tore the place apart while I was at church services helping take up the collection and clean up the church afterwards.  Oh yeah, I helped a couple of old ladies get across the street on my way home, so Icouldn’t get my homework assignment done. First rule of Bafflement:

BE CREATIVE

Fac
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Great Good News About Healthcare

  Colorado Springs, Colorado Comrades!  I have great good news!  Soon, everyone will have health insurance!  Access to health care is, after all, one of your basic human rights according to someone, somewhere and publicly endorsed by the always loquacious and eager to articulate anonymous source. There is unfortunately however, how do you say . . . yes.  There is however, an unfortunate insect in the borscht.  Err
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What’s Hot

 

Colorado   Springs, CO The news from Colorado this week is all hot.  The Denver Broncos opened training camp and new quarterback, Peyton Manning is hot, hot, hot.  The Colorado Rockies are not so hot; they're the cellar-dwellers in the NL West.  Some burned-out homeowners in the Waldo Canyon fire are hot under the collar, trying to figure out their insurance claims and navigate the Byzantine rules and regulations of the Regional Building Department, and the whole summer's been unseasonably hot for everyone. Up here, around the hacienda high on the mesa, we're going hot and heavy with preparation for the release of our next book: The Whim-Wham Man, a coming-of-age murder-mystery, due out in the next three
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Same Blog-New Look-Some News You Can Use

Don’t worry!  It’s the same ole BS & Donkey Dust you’re used to, but from now on it’ll just have the title, not the name.  Confused?  Me too, but look at the title up there.  See?  There’s a title, but no name.  (BS & Donkey Dust #10)  Ahhh . . . now I’ve got it.

We’ll also be publishing it on Wednesday afternoons at 5pm Mountain Standard time.

Now For the News:

Rhyolite Press LLC has announced that the release (shipping) date for The Whim-Wham Man will be August 15, 2012.  I’m excited, it’s my second book, after all.  A sneak peek follows at the end of the blog. In celebration and as a Thank-you offer to our readers and fans, Rhyolite Press is offering the following speci
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Announcement: BS & Donkey Dust Publication Time Change

Hello everyone !!  Just a notice to let you know we will be moving the weekly  BS & Donkey Dust to post Wednesdays at 5:00 pm mountain time.  We look forward to seeing you then. Thanks, The Rhyolite Team
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The Face of Courage

            Last night, the first Tuesday of the month, was book club night.  As they've been doing once a month for nearly twenty-five years, the ladies gathered at one of the members houses for tea, desserts and a discussion of their latest read.  It's a serious discourse too.  These are after all, university and professional women, librarians mostly, plus a Chancellor of the University, a Dean of women students, a pair of professional women . . .a banker, and a financial advisor.  This night, on the heels of the most devastating and costly fire in the state history, the book was The Tiger's Wife, by Tea Obreht, and the meeting was held at the home of June and John McKenna.

No one thought Rita would be there, she'd ju
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A Simple Thank You

The great conflagration and inferno known as the Waldo Canyon Fire has been put out.  It consumed nearly 18,000 acres of the Pike National Forest, 346 homes and 2 lives.  It took thousands and thousand of man hours, a fleet of air tankers and helicopters, more than 1,000 federal wildfire fighters and God only knows how many professional firefighters from metropolitan Colorado Springs and nearby cities and towns . . . brave men and women all . . . who went toe-to-toe with the firestorm, battling and beating it back, inch by inch, foot by foot, or house by house and tree by tree until it was no more.  They are all heros.  They all went about their duties

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The Red Road

The Red Road

Mysterious Book Report No. 152

by John Dwaine McKenna

Here's some news: I got involved with a young woman last week in a personal way. We spent a delightful afternoon and evening together; she even went to bed with me while my wife June snoozed right beside us. And hey . . . before any mendacious gossip of a salacious nature gets started . . . it's a perfectly platonic relationship. After all, she lives in Glasgow, Scotland, while June and I live in Colorado, happily married for some thirty-seven years now. So how, you may ask does one go to bed with another who is eight thousand miles away and not engage in moral turpitude? The answer shoul
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