June 26, 2016

The Last Novel of Alexandre Dumas – Troisieme Partie (Part 3)

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The Last Novel of Alexandre Dumas – Troisieme Partie (Part 3)

If Alexandre Dumas were alive today, he would be living fat, admired and happy with the royalties just from his two biggest hits, The Three Musketeers and The Count of Monte Cristo. In all likelihood, you have read one or both of these novels, which are among the finest examples of the thriller genre – and glorious writing to book. Dumas, writing some 200 years ago, knew what audiences liked, and he gave it to them. Michael Ross writes in his biography, “Of ten plays by Dumas and Victor Hugo, eight of the characters are adulteresses; five are common prostitutes; six are seduced; four mothers are in love with their sons or son-in-law; eleven persons are murdered; and in no less than six of these plays the leading character is either a foundling or a…

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June 24, 2016

Podcast: David Foster Wallace’s “Infiinte Jest” at 20 Years of Age

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Podcast: David Foster Wallace’s “Infiinte Jest” at 20 Years of Age

The world is divided into two groups: those who have read the late David Foster Wallace’s masterpiece, Infinite Jest, and those who have not. Tipping in at just over a thousand pages, and described on Amazon as “A gargantuan, mind-altering comedy about the Pursuit of Happiness in America set in an addicts’ halfway house and a tennis academy,” it’s not for everyone. I confess I bought it with high enthusiasm. Couldn’t wait to read it. Now, twenty years on, it’s still resting on my bookshelf, unread. Yet after hearing the people in this New York Times Book Review podcast discuss it, upon the occasion of the 20th anniversary edition being published, I’m ready. Sometimes books are like that, aren’t they? You just have to wait until you’re ready to read it. This podcast was originally netcast…

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June 21, 2016

A Visit to Dumas’ Chateau de Monte Cristo, Deuxieme Partie

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A Visit to Dumas’ Chateau de Monte Cristo, Deuxieme Partie

“I confess that the sensation attaching to the name of an absent person bedazzled me. I became ambitious of this glory of making people talk about me places where I was not.” – Alexandre Dumas   Paris, 13 Mai, 2016. In France, a country that reveres its authors, Alexandre Dumas is considered a national treasure. He was a prolific writer, most notably for stage plays, novels, and travel nonfiction. He is said to have written 100,000 words, an estimate which, given that he penned some 400 works, must certainly be a low estimate. Dumas was also a man who lived large and loved every moment of his life, which speaks to his character and a subject of equal or greater interest: Le Chateau de Monte-Cristo. [You might enjoy watching this short video, although it’s in French.]…

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June 17, 2016

Podcast: Michael Connelly, Stephen King, John LeCarre, Frederick Forsyth and More!

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Podcast: Michael Connelly, Stephen King, John LeCarre, Frederick Forsyth and More!

If you’re an avid bookie, you probably read The New York Times Book Review, which comes tucked inside the Sunday paper. For some time now Pamela Paul, the NYTBR’s editor, has been creating podcast interviews and other book news in a podcast. This month, we’re highlighting not one but several we think you’ll enjoy listening to. The first is an interview with a popular crime thriller author, LA’s own Michael Connolly, author of the fabulous Harry Bosch and Lincoln Lawyer tales, discussing his most recent novel, The Crossing. It’s followed by Alexandra Alter’s in-depth exploration about how Stephen King came up with the ideas to write the short stories in his latest collection, The Bazaar of Bad Dreams. A review of Adam Sisman’s biography of the king of spy novelists, John Le Carre, author of The Spy Who…

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June 13, 2016

Dumas’ Castle, Première Partie (Part 1)

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Dumas’ Castle, Première Partie (Part 1)

Paris, 2 Novembre, 2013. While on a writing retreat in rural France, I read an article about the famed author Alexandre Dumas’ magnificent Chateau de Monte-Cristo in France Today magazine. Located in the small village not far from Paris, the three-story home of the novelist who penned The Count of Monte Cristo, The Three Musketeers, and hundreds of other works, gave me great cause to want to see his palatial estate. Most particularly, I wanted to visit his writing studio, the Chateau d’If, situated within the beautiful gardens. Dumas was born in 1802. He lived through – even participated in – the Second French Revolution of 1830. He was a prolific author who helped found Romanticism and is said to have written over a hundred thousand words [with a quill pen, mind you] for dramatic…

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May 17, 2016

Book Review: The “Brilliance” Trilogy by Marcus Sakey

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Book Review: The “Brilliance” Trilogy by Marcus Sakey

I’ve spent the past few months reading Marcus Sakey’s Brilliance trilogy. It’s been a helluva trip. Set in the unspecified near future – maybe tomorrow? – it’s a story that could have come right off the front page of a major newspaper. Sakey has character development that makes a writer pine and a plotline that’s terribly engrossing. This is a trilogy, so it’s three full length novels: Brilliance, A Better World, and Written in Fire. You can get a plot briefing on Amazon, but the brilliant aspect, for me, is the brilliants. Sakey posits an event occurred some thirty years ago, that humans with extraordinary powers – in a word, brilliance – were unsuspectingly born. Over time, average mortals have grown largely resentful of the brilliants, and some have decided to assure they will never…

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January 27, 2016

Book Review: Safe Inside the Violence

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Book Review: Safe Inside the Violence

Safe Inside the Violence is 13 short stories about the everyday conflicts that push the common man to act in ways he never thought he would. I must admit, this is the kind of writing that I personally enjoy the most. First off, it is character-driven. Irvin knows the importance of building well-defined, realistic characters, as his stories all share this trait. Second, the situations are right out of everyday life: a man walking to the grocery store in a snow storm, a confrontation with noisy neighbors, a garbage man finding something valuable in the trash. Irvin digs through modern-day life to uncover an engaging story each time. Now, I enjoy a spell-casting adventure as much as the next person, but for me it doesn’t get any better than when a writer really captures the…

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July 24, 2015

Randy Cade’s New Thriller is a Western

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Editor’s note: We published an excerpt from “Call Me Harry,” from the the prolific Mr. Cade, in May, 2014. His new novella is a Western. The trick question in the title, “At the Request of James Dougle,” may keep you wondering for a while, but wait – it’s a zinger. This is an old-fashioned Western, and I love the genre. Maybe because I grew up wearing cowboy boots, but more likely because in many ways the Western was the progenitor of the mystery and suspense genre, in which I dearly love to read and to write. The tales James Fenimore Cooper told of Matty Bumppo [aka “Leatherstocking”] were thrillers set in an untamed America, which translated forward into the wild-in-the-streets American cities where cops and private eyes fought crime. Race, it seems, has always been…

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July 4, 2015

Film Review: “Ex Machina”

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Film Review: “Ex Machina”

  The box-office success of “Mad Max: Fury Road” [reviewed by Jason] and “Ex Machina” is the quintessential personification of lowbrow versus highbrow films. We Americans – indeed, most of the world, civilized or no – love both types. I have come to pick up Jason’s gauntlet and praise the latter film, but not at the expense of the former, for I, too, loved them both. And as writers and artists and students of the craft of storytelling, so should you. “Ex Machina” begins by celebrating the brilliance of the creative lions of Silicon Valley, in this case Nathan [Oscar Isaac], and the wonders of technology, like the Google-like empire he has built. Yet Nathan is now, not unlike Thoreau, retired to the woods to contemplate his next brilliant move, for nothing less than topping his earlier triumph will satisfy this…

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June 29, 2015

Film Review: “Mad Max: Fury Road”

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Film Review: “Mad Max: Fury Road”

When I saw the trailer for Mad Max: Fury Road last summer, it gave me a massive, throbbing anticiboner. I love Mad Max. I love Tom Hardy. The initial images looked like they were doing it the right way, instead of throwing a modernized and weak-sauce reboot at us. Turns out it was that and much, much more. Fury Road is the best movie I’ve seen this year, with nothing else coming anywhere close. It’s so damn good we can use it as a guide for how to improve our fiction. That’s right: we can learn about our craft from a postapocalyptic chase scene full of flamethrowers and electric guitars. This is true even if you’re writing cozy mysteries on the moor, or hilarious chicklit about designer jeans and eating disorders. For example: Fury Road Crushed the Cinematography…

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