|Paul D. Brazill - Last Year's Man (2018) - review copy|
A troubled, ageing hit man leaves London and returns to his hometown in the north east of England hoping for peace. But the ghosts of his past return to haunt him.
Last Year’s Man is a violent and blackly comic slice of Brit Grit noir.
|Matt Coleman - Juggling Kittens (2016) - purchased|
Ellis Mazer is a soon-to-be father, a first year English teacher, and a directionless twenty-something entering the directionless 2000-somethings. Violence provided by the backdrop of 9/11 feeds Mr. Mazer's seventh graders the essay fodder that almost makes his job bearable. Then, when a little girl disappears from her rural Arkansas mobile home, teaching writing turns into a layup drill.
Soon after that, however, Spencer—trailer trash with more ring worms than friends—stops coming to school. Ellis discovers that he may be the only person who even notices, much less cares. What begins as a good-natured attempt to deliver some make-up work tumbles headlong into a quest deep into hillbilly noir in an attempt to verify that there is still some good in what appears to be a crumbling world.
Ellis is pitted against a preacher’s son whose sociopathic tendencies have seeped into the fabric of small-town life, and he is partnered with The Drew—full-time assistant principal, part-time private detective—who wears both his old coach’s whistle and his monotonous family life like veritable Albatrosses. He explores each dark crevice of backwoods Arkansas as both a literal nightmare of gothic possibilities and an analogous depiction of his inner struggles with adulthood.
Reluctantly, Ellis comes to the realization that Spencer’s disappearance is directly linked to whatever happened to that little girl. Unfortunately, others have made the same discovery. Somewhere in a stack of ungraded essays, Spencer has revealed the horrific truth behind the brutal murder and burial of a six-year-old girl. And it doesn’t much feel like anyone wants that truth to emerge. Even Ellis is unsure of how much he cares. He only knows that in order to believe in his ability to be a husband or father, for some reason, he must find Spencer.
Among the swirling depravity of society, the crippling panic of impending parenthood, and the mounting scrap heap of seventh grade essays, one Arkansas town sees two kids go missing. Ellis Mazer only wants to find one of them. And if he can pull that off, he might not ever become a good teacher, but he might at least become a good person.
|Masaji Ishikawa - A River in Darkness (2018) - purchased|
Hat tip to my son, who read this recently and was moved by this one man's tale. A bit of hard-hitting non-fiction, I thought I'd try for myself.
An Amazon Charts Most Read and Most Sold book.
The harrowing true story of one man’s life in—and subsequent escape from—North Korea, one of the world’s most brutal totalitarian regimes.
Half-Korean, half-Japanese, Masaji Ishikawa has spent his whole life feeling like a man without a country. This feeling only deepened when his family moved from Japan to North Korea when Ishikawa was just thirteen years old, and unwittingly became members of the lowest social caste. His father, himself a Korean national, was lured to the new Communist country by promises of abundant work, education for his children, and a higher station in society. But the reality of their new life was far from utopian.
In this memoir translated from the original Japanese, Ishikawa candidly recounts his tumultuous upbringing and the brutal thirty-six years he spent living under a crushing totalitarian regime, as well as the challenges he faced repatriating to Japan after barely escaping North Korea with his life. A River in Darkness is not only a shocking portrait of life inside the country but a testament to the dignity—and indomitable nature—of the human spirit.
|T.R. Pearson - Eaglesworth (2018) - purchased|
Not read too much from Mr Pearson, but what I have I've liked - East Jesus South
A small Virginia town, long since bypassed by the interstate, has but two claims on historical significance -- a plaque marking the route where General Longstreet's army retired from a defeat and a near derelict Georgian mansion called Eaglesworth. The house sits on a hilltop, neglected and weathered, until an outlander rolls in to bring it back to life. The lively story of the sordid secrets the renovation reveals is told by a pack of local barflies, a ragged bunch of half-cocked civic boosters and gossips who give us history as seen through the bottom of a shot glass.
Funny, bittersweet, and glancingly philosophical, Eaglesworth is a fanciful biography of a place, a latter-day slice of the Old Dominion that the Sage of Monticello would hardly recognize.
|Cody Goodfellow and J David Osborne - The Snake Handler (2017) - purchased|
Let he who is without sin… COME GET SOME.
All his life, Reverend Clyde Hilburn has fought to protect his downtrodden flock in the tiny town of Palestine, West Virginia from the evils of the modern world. To that end, he has held a monopoly on not only their souls, but also their thriving drug addiction.
But times have changed, and forces larger than him have moved in to take control of both the church and the flow of narcotics.
When he suffers a lethal bite from a rattlesnake someone placed in his mailbox, a dying, venom-addicted Clyde has only hours to undo a lifetime of sin, avenge his own murder and save his godforsaken town from the human monsters he’s unleashed.
THE SNAKE HANDLER
|Scott Adlerberg - Graveyard Love (2016) - purchased|
Thirty-five-year-old Kurt Morgan lives with his mother across the street from a graveyard. He becomes obsessed with a red-haired woman who visits the graveyard often, watching her through the telescope in his room, wondering whose grave she visits like clockwork. Meanwhile, his mother pressures him to write her memoir. She wants her book finished, and soon. Among these three - Kurt, the graveyard visitor, and Kurt's mother - a twisted triangle develops, with each person pursuing their specific obsession at all costs. Set one cold winter in upstate New York, Graveyard Love is a dark and atmospheric thriller that explores the far reaches of the human psyche.
“Another masterful, twisted, deranged tale from the scrambled, fevered brain of Scott Adlerberg, who leads the reader through the dark and winding canyons of a functioning psychopath and makes his personal horror seem normal.”
— Les Edgerton, author of
The Genuine, Imitation, Plastic Kidnapping and others
“The ghosts of Cornell Woolrich and Edgar Allan Poe haunt the pages of this atmospheric thriller. Voyeurism, obsession and death — Alfred Hitchcock would have loved it.”
— Wallace Stroby, author of the Crissa Stone series