Mixing it Up

This week has been real interesting. I’ve been jumping back and forth between the mystic realms of Algernon Blackwood, editing down the scan of The Human Chord for next Spring; and working with Rick Ollerman on his introduction to Malcolm Braly’s prison biography, False Starts, for February. Oh, yeah, and for fun, I’m reading William Patrick Maynard’s The Terror of Fu Manchu, following Dr. Petrie on his mad chase over London. My head’s all over the place.

I’m also shaking my head wondering why our two October books aren’t flying out the door. Stark House just released The Babysitter by Andrew Coburn and Fell the Angels by Catherine Butzen, but since they didn’t get any major reviews, none of the bookstore and library buyers know they’re here. Some months, you just can’t win.

Granted, the Coburn book isn’t new. It was Coburn’s second published novel. But it’s such a clever mystery, snaking around all over the place as first the police, and then the parents, try to find out who killed the babysitter and kidnapped their small child. I’ve read it a couple times, and I get caught up in the story and characters each time. Everything hinges on finding out the real identity of the babysitter. I thought it was a very clever book, as Coburn’s books generally are, puzzle pieces of interlocking stories that slowly come together to form one large pattern of character and place. If you haven’t read a book by Andrew Coburn, do. You’re in for a treat.

And the Catherine Butzen book is a real page turner, too, though in a completely different way. With Fell the Angels, she goes back to the characters in her first book, Thief of Midnight, as they continue to battle the forces of magical maliciousness in the world. Abby Marquis is part of the Society for the Security of Reality, fighting the good fight against the forces of darkness—the bogeymen, the ancient myths, the werewolves, ghouls and faeries—but she also has a neglected and rebellious teenage son to raise. This torturous balancing act on the part of Abby is what gives the book its tension because soon enough, her son becomes involved in her pursuit of a group of rogue selkies, too—to his detriment.

There’s a mystery here as Abby tries to find out who the selkies are and who is controlling them. But there’s also a lot of gritty urban dark fantasy here as well. Personally, I love Butzen’s series, and I’m hoping it finds its readers. I waited five years for Butzen to finish this second book, and she has promised a much shorter wait for the third. You should check it out, trust me. Like the Fu Manchu book I’m reading, it’s also a lot of fun.

And isn’t that the reason we spend so much time reading. If it isn’t fun, we just put it down, and find another book. Of course, there are times when what you really want to do is finally read James Joyce’s Ulysses or Thomas Pynchon’s Gravity’s Rainbow, just so you can say you did it. But most of the time, we read for pleasure. I wish a few reviewers had found our October books, but hopefully the authors themselves will stir up a little activity. I took a break from our usual 1950s hardboiled action this month, because sometimes you just have to mix things up a bit to keep it interesting.

Now, back to that Fu Manchu book. As I recall, Dr. Petrie had just met Gaston Max in Paris, and they were about to take on the most sinister villain the world has ever known….

—Greg Shepard

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