Preordered: Warren Elsmore’s Brick Wonders

February 18, 2014


After the wonderful Brick City, Warren Elsmore is back with his second book, Brick Wonders. I’ve preordered my two copies (one is for Number Two Son, the other for myself).

Chicago Lightning by Max Allan Collins

January 7, 2013

The short story isn’t something that I normally read, which is unfortunate. It’s a great art, where the author has to convey quite a bit in a compressed time frame. Because of this, some aspects you would normally expect while reading a novel are missing, such as detailed character development. However, if you pick up a collection of short stories centered on one figure, for example, Chicago Lightning, by Max Allan Collins, the reader is able to learn quite a bit about the central character as well as some recurring characters. Where Chicago Lightning really takes off is in the author’s use of real cases using an old form – the private detective.

Nathan “Nate” Heller is the central character and the private detective. He isn’t quite what you might expect of a 1930’s and 1940’s private eye as described by other authors, such as Dashiell Hammett, Raymond Chandler, or Mickey Spillane what you might expect. Actually, I find that I love reading about Nate, and his cases, than any other detective in the genre. The language, characters, and cases make this a wonderful read. Where it really shined, for me, was when Max Allan Collins put Nate Heller in cases in which I am familiar, for example, the Cleveland Torso Murders in the 1930’s. What makes that story so wonderful is that Collins brings Nate to Cleveland to work with Eliot Ness. In fact, Heller and Ness work several cases together, which brings those stories alive.

If you’re looking for something “different,” introduce yourself to the short story with a strong character like Nate Heller. The tight writing, exciting cases, and hard dialog, will keep you turning pages well after you should be turning in for the night. Chicago Lightning is an exceptional collection of stories.


Obtained from: Amazon Vine

Payment: Free

Mr. Penumbra’s 24 Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan

December 4, 2012

Clay Jannon is one of those people that rarely touch paper. Need news? He uses Google. Looking for a job? He scans the job openings online. Looking for something to read? He downloads books, magazine articles, blog posts to his laptop or his early version Kindle. He is a child of the internet and his job is at a startup, creating logos, web sites, administering a Twitter account. However, a severe downturn in the economy results in the loss of Clay’s job. He’s been out of work for a year, there is nothing in San Francisco for him; he is a dime a dozen.

It is paper that gets him a job.

Because he cannot concentrate on actually finding a job while he is online, one link sends him to another site, then to another until his entire day is shot and he is no closer to finding a job. What he does to combat the internet is to print out the want ads and take a walk around San Francisco while reading his printouts. Strangely, that does not help him land a job. But San Francisco is an interesting place, as he discards his latest printouts, he sees a “Help Wanted” sign in the window of Mr. Penumbra’s 24 Hour Bookstore. “What the heck,” he says, walks in and interviews for the job of the night clerk at the store. He is hired.

This is not an ordinary book store. While they have some popular books, the store is dedicated to different kinds of books, strange books. Which are loaned out to a wide variety of people who arrive at the store at all hours of the day and night. Curious, Clay takes a look at some of them; they appear to be written in some sort of code.

Mr. Penumbra’s 24 Hour Bookstore is an incredible balance between “new” and “old.” While books are the primary focus, Robin Sloan incorporates new technologies, such as Google, OCR, crowd sourcing, and more. Old Knowledge, that which is not indexed on a search server, has a definite place in the world and is very much relevant. In addition to the wonderful characters and excellent plot, it is this balance that allows the novel to soar. Sloan really shines when he focuses on Clay, a man who may live a technical world but, underneath his web-centric world, really likes pen and ink. The reader recognizes this early, but enjoys the ride as Clay discovers this for himself. And it’s not because Clay is a Luddite at heart. He really has a deep appreciation of the glue, the feel, the smell of books (and bookstores) and ink. Mr. Penumbra’s 24 Hour Bookstore is a fabulous page turner that is very appealing; it is very hard to put down. It is also one of those books what will remain with you long after you have powered down your e-reader or marked your place.

Obtained from: Amazon
Payment: Purchased