Tag Archives: crime

Thanks for the “Pope” pulp, but you shouldn’t have

February 29, 2008

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“High Hat,”
by Greg Mandel

I hadn’t read four complete paragraphs of “High Hat” when I began asking myself if I’d had enough and it was okay to stop.

The same question came to mind many times, but I kept forcing myself on, just to see if Greg Mandel could pull off this wacky idea of a Mickey Spillane-type pulp fiction novel in which the private detective has a day job — as the pope, the leader of the Roman Catholic Church.

After plodding through all the obtuse private-eye vernacular for 130 pages, the answer was, “No.”

Sorry, Greg. All the kitsch in the world can’t save a hokey plot. And how many 130-page paperbacks can you describe as having to plod through?

It’s like the author put all the energy into trying to come up with cute similes and metaphors ala Mike Hammer and forgot that realistic drama was an essential element to hold readers’ attention.

The storyline has someone trying to get possession of the bones of St. Peter because they allegedly have mysterious powers. The pope, as alter ego A. Pope — get it? — Vatican City’s only private detective, stumbles on the bad guys and goes through the usual ups and downs the pulp fiction genre requires, getting into as much hot water as, well, as Mandel might have put it, enough hot water to bathe the whole College of Cardinals.

And the creative P-I lingo? Papal garments are call “the holy muumuu;” lips are “ruby smoochers;” the pope never walks anywhere, he “ankles” over; the Mennonite splinter group bad guys are “pretzel benders.” All that’s campy for a while, and silly almost to the point of funny, but not quite.

Save yourself the two hours. If you need a fix of stuff like this, find a “Batman” rerun on cable TV. That’s about the quality of the story and the action — and you’ll only be wasting 30 minutes of your life. — bz

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Characters to warm up to in a cold, cold climate

February 13, 2008

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“Light on Snow,”
by Anita Shreve

When as a reader you are drawn into a story, when you rush home from work to pick up reading where you left off, when you get out of bed and start reading while you are pouring your morning coffee half into the cup and half onto the kitchen counter, and when, in the end, you wish there were a few more chapters, that’s a good book.

“Light on Snow” is that kind of read.

Anita Shreve pulls us into the lives of Nicky and Robert Dillon, a daughter and father who find a baby in the snowy woods near their New Hampshire home. How they react — and how their reactions impact their lives — reveals not just a life-saving response for the infant but a chance to reclaim the lives they have run to the northern forest to escape.

Part crime story, part family-relationship story, part mystery, “Light on Snow” is so much more than any literary genre can describe, and it’s because Shreve makes us care about the characters. The Dillons are people we want to know – people we want to reach out to – people we want to do the right thing – for their own sake, for their own sanity, for their own saintliness. – bz

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If you like ‘Cold Case,’ you’ll like ‘Shadows’

February 12, 2008

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Shadows,
By Edna Buchanan

“Shadows” is a good, “Cold Case”-type detective story with interesting twists that go back to the Cilvil Rights Movement days of the 1960s.

Author Edna Buchanan has at least a half-dozen good novels to her name, and you’ve gotta love her writing.

When you get a chance, pick up a her non-fiction work, “The Corpse Had a Familiar Face.” It’s filled with stories Buchanan picked up as a crime reporter for The Miami Herald. At a journalism workshop I went to not long ago, one of the presenters said he makes it must reading for all new hires and interns, because it models the colorful, interesting writing he wants in his newspaper.

“Shadows” offers much the same as a work of fiction, and its plot is complicated enough to keep you turning the pages. – bz

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