Saturday, October 11, 2003

Autumn 2003 Mystery Book Sense 76 Top Ten

It's not a mystery why these titles were chosen by independent booksellers as their top ten picks for the fall.

1. TO THE BONE, by Neil McMahon (HarperCollins, $23.95, 0060529164) "Dr. Carroll Monks, emergency room physician and part-time sleuth, is back and in fine form. Mystery lovers who haven't yet discovered author Neil McMahon and his Monks books are in for a real treat!" --Susan Wasson, Bookworks, Albuquerque, NM

2. THE DEATH YOU DESERVE, by David Bowker (Minotaur, $12.95, 0312311788) "The Death You Deserve is great. It's a title that I'll definitely recommend to thriller fans looking for a fresh voice." --Meredith Whiles, Joseph-Beth Booksellers, Lexington, KY

3. LAST LESSONS OF SUMMER, by Margaret Maron (Mysterious Press, $23.95, 0892967803) "This multilayered novel is rich in surprises and fun, as well as murders, relatives, and puzzles. The heroine finds her backbone as she struggles to understand and deal with the past and present. It is delicious to see her blossom in the midst of mayhem." --June Applen, The Book Mark, Atlantic Beach, FL

4. STILL LIFE WITH CROWS, by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child (Warner, $25.95, 0446531421) "Medicine Creek, Kansas, is slowly dying as its farming base erodes along with the land. Main Street is shuttered, and the nearest mall is 200 miles away. The few townsfolk, unused to change, are terrified when a body is found mutilated in a cornfield. What does the weird tableau symbolize? As more are unveiled, enigmatic FBI agent Pendergast arrives from New Orleans to take charge in another knockout from Preston and Child." --Barbara Peters, The Poisoned Pen, Scottsdale, AZ Also a Time Warner Audio (1586215043, Abridged Cassette)

5. THE SERPENT'S KISS: A Novel, by Mark T. Sullivan (Atria, $25, 0743439821) "A snake-bearing serial killer is on the loose in San Diego, and the more detective Seamus Moynihan and his crew find out about the case the more possible suspects they discover. Is it the internationally renowned reptile handler from the zoo? The drug dealer with a passion for 'hot herps'? Or someone with a connection to Lilith, mother of demons?" --Maryelizabeth Hart, Mysterious Galaxy Books, San Diego, CA

6. THE SMALL BOAT OF GREAT SORROWS, by Dan Fesperman (Knopf, $24, 037541472X) "Small Boat is a follow-up to Fesperman's 1999 Lie in the Dark, which featured Bosnian cop Vlado Petric. Set five years after Vlado's daring escape from Bosnia, Fesperman picks up the story in Berlin, where Vlado is enlisted by the Hague War Crimes Tribunal to find two WWII criminals from Bosnia. This is the best thriller/detective novel that I've read this year, a literary triumph from start to finish." --Barry Martin, Book'em Mysteries, South Pasadena, CA

7. EVERYONE DIES: A Kevin Kerney Novel, by Michael McGarrity (Dutton, $23.95, 0525947612) "Everyone Dies is by far the best police mystery I've read this year. Santa Fe Police Chief Kevin Kerney and his wife, Army MP Lieutenant Colonel Sara Brannon, have taken leave for the birth of their son -- a leave that turns into a nightmare as people from Kevin's professional past begin turning up dead. Will Kevin's wife and baby be the next victims?" --Bob Spear, The Book Barn, Leavenworth, KS Also a Brilliance Audio (1590867815, Abridged Cassette)

8. MORGUE MAMA: The Cross Kisses Back, by C.R. Corwin (Poisoned Pen, $24.95, 1590580745) "Morgue Mama is a real treat. The interaction between the older newspaper morgue librarian and the young, upstart crime reporter, Aubrey McGinty, was terrific. If you enjoy a chuckle or two with your mystery, you'll love this one!" --Linda Dewberry, Whodunit? Books, Olympia, WA

9. JUDGMENT CALLS, by Alafair Burke (Holt, $23, 0805073868) "Take an insider's look at Portland's Drug and Vice Division as Deputy District Attorney Samantha Kincaid deals with courtrooms, criminal investigations, and her personal life. This may be Alafair Burke's first book, but she knows her way around the justice system, and her father, James Lee Burke, has every right to be proud!" --Barbara Theroux, Fact & Fiction, Missoula, MT

10. HARD AS NAILS: A Joe Kurtz Novel, by Dan Simmons (Minotaur, $24.95, 0312305281) "A relative newcomer to the hard-boiled crime genre, Simmons explodes onto the scene with his tough-guy antihero, Joe Kurtz. In this third novel in the series, ex-private eye, ex-con Kurtz hunts a serial killer who's targeting heroin addicts, while he's evading various hit men who are out for the bounty on his head. A serious, guilty pleasure awaits!" --David Thompson, Murder by the Book, Houston, TX

Publishers fight for more 'male lit'

Two men are fighting back against the "chick lit" phenomenon by setting up a publishing company exclusively for men's and boys' books.

David Elliot and Brad Thompson want to attack the "namby-pamby, touchy-feely" style of authors like Tony Parsons.

The pair told the Daily Telegraph there should be more buccaneering tales that teach boys about chivalry and stoicism.

Spitfire Books' first release will be Barry Norman's laddish 30-year-old novel Have a Nice Day.

The company, which will publish boys' books under the title Young Spitfire, is fighting the corner for men, believing female authors such as Zadie Smith and Helen Fielding receive too much attention.

"Because of feminism and political correctness, what young men read now is crap these days, with books by people like Tony Parsons," said Mr Elliot in the Telegraph.
"It's all this new dad stuff, all namby pamby touchy-feely. Where are all the great buccaneering, derring-do, true-life adventures and cowboy stories? Our criteria is that we want bloody good reads."

Spitfire wants a return to adventure stories where men are men and debauchery is welcomed along with smoking and drinking.

Female characters look like they will be given short shrift in Spitfire stories, as Mr Elliot believes JK Rowling was wrong to have made Harry Potter's friend Hermione his equal.

"It is typical of modern children's books in which there is a boy and a girl and the girl is as good as the boy," he said.

"Just William is a much better read for boys. Violet Elizabeth Bott was a whingeing, snivelling sneak who was always frightened. That is how I would like the girls to be."

The publishers say the influence of female-orientated books has edged out writers such as Neville Chute and JB Priestley.
Mr Elliot said Spitfire will provide an alternative to the publisher Virago, founded 30 years ago to promote women's fiction.

"They had their day," he said.

"Now it's time for us to have ours to redress the balance because men are not getting a fair crack of the whip."

Are there really not enough novels around for men and boys? Send us your thoughts using the form below.

I've read quite a few novels where men get to be extremely debauched, smoke and drink to excess and have lots of adventures where girls are given very short shrift. Of course, their focus is gay men in the urban jungle so maybe it's not quite what Spitfire want...
David, UK

I challenge you to find a boy equivalent of Hermione, ie someone who is good at studies not games. All the children fiction I have read has boy heroes as good at things other than academic subjects (eg William, Jennings, Harry Potter etc) while there is a wide range of "academic is cool" fiction for girls. When schools are failing our boys it is sad that fiction is too.
John, UK

The lack of books aimed at boys is simply the result of market forces. Because parents have an increased tendency to talk to baby girls, they pick up linguistic skills earlier on and are consequently much more likely to read. More female readers means more femenist books being written to supply the demand.
Graeme Phillips, Germany, normally UK

I think this is great and don't know why anyone hadn't thought of it earlier. I hope it succeeds - most (thirtysomething) blokes I know haven't read a single book since school. It would be nice to see books aimed at men that aren't either (a) humorous; (b) thrillers; (c) fantasy/sci-fi or (d) about the underworld/drug culture - because it my experience that's about all they'll read (if they do at all). Let's see something different.
Holly, UK

I look forward to seeing Spitfire Books crash and burn. Elliot and Thompson are the literary equivalent of The Darkness: sounding ironic without meaning to and ending up all the more pitiable because apparently this really is the best they can do. To quote "namby-pamby" Oscar Wilde: books are either well-written or badly written, that is all. What matters in creative writing is not what is said but the way it is said.

Men are not getting a fair crack of the whip? Well, to quote Martin Amis (a man who really knows how to write) in his new novel: that seems like a mild reparation for five million years in power.
Alan Simpson, Belfast, NI

Story from BBC NEWS:

Published: 2003/10/10 13:45:05 GMT


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