Posts Tagged ‘edgy’

Devil in a Blue Dress

October 17, 2012


Title: Devil in a Blue Dress

Author: Mosley, Walter

Genre: Mystery, Historical Mystery, African American Fiction

Publication Date: 1990

Number of Pages: 215

Geographical Setting: Los Angeles, California

Time Period: 1948, Post WWII

Series: Easy Rawlins

Plot Summary: Set in Los Angeles in 1948, this gritty novel follows Ezekiel Rawlins who goes by Easy.  An African-American WWII veteran, Easy just wants to enjoy his life and hold onto the house he worked so hard to get but he has just lost his factory job.  Easy tries to forget his troubles at his friend Joppy’s bar when he is offered money by the mysterious, white gentleman DeWitt Albright.  All he has to do is track down French beauty Daphne Monet, a lady who is said to frequent black jazz clubs, and he will have enough money to pay this month’s mortgage.  But what starts out as a straightforward mission leads to increasing danger and threats to his life.  With bodies piling up and the police eager to pin the crimes on him, Easy must find Daphne and solve this mystery in order to stay alive.  Winner of the Shamus best P.I. novel award and the first in the Easy Rawlins series, this book introduces a complex and engaging protagonist who goes from reluctant to empowered private investigator while also dealing with racial tensions during the 1940’s Los Angeles.  Mystery lovers can enjoy this private investigator novel that looks at social issues while also delivering an atmospheric, evocative story that has the feel of a film noir.  They can also watch the movie version of this starring Denzel Washington and Jennifer Beals.

Subject Headings: African-American Fiction, Mystery Fiction, Los Angeles, California, Private Investigators, Race Relations, Rawlins, Easy, African American Men, Organized Crime, Missing persons investigation, The Forties (20th century), Gangsters, Political Corruption

Appeal: Builds in intensity Pacing, Edgy, Character-driven, Suspenseful, Intriguing Characters, Well-drawn Characters, Gritty, Historical Details, Issue-oriented, Stark, Investigative, Thought-provoking, Strong Language, Time period dialect, Atmospheric, Evocative

Three Most Relevant Appeal Terms: Gritty, Historical details, Investigative

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors:

A Dangerous Road by Kris Nelscott

Set against the racially tense backdrop of Memphis in 1968, this historical mystery follows the activities of African-American private investigator Smokey Dalton.  He finds out that he is the recipient of $10,000 through rich,white Chicago heiress Laura Hathaway’s mother’s will.  Laura wants to know why Smokey was named the beneficiary, as does Smokey.  This search for answers leads to danger and mysteries for Smokey.  Another historical mystery novel that features an engaging African-American private detective narrator, while also offering an atmospheric story that deals with racial issues.

L.A. Confidential by James Ellroy

In this noir fiction set in the Los Angeles of the 1950s, the story follows three troubled LAPD officers Ed Exley, Bud White and Jack “Trashcan” Vincennes as they deal with crime, corruption and violence over a 10-year period.  Enjoy this mystery novel that deals with corruption and violence during a similar time period.  Like Devil in a Blue Dress, this was made into a movie.

The Maltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammett

In this classic noir novel, San Francisco detective Sam Spade must deal with his partner being killed in a stakeout, a valuable statue of a falcon being wanted, the appearance and disappearance of a mysterious redhead and enemies demanding a payoff that Sam does not have.  The stakes are high and Sam must figure out how to get out of this mess and get some answers.  Here is the go-to novel for a gritty, noir detective story.

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors:

The Invisible Line: A Secret History of Race in America by Daniel J. Sharfstein

If you want to delve a bit deeper into some of the racial issues explored in Devil in a Blue Dress, try this book that explores three American families whose self-identified race shifted from black to white over the years.

L.A. Noir: The Struggle for the Soul of America’s Most Seductive City by John Buntin

Delve even deeper into the seedy underworld of Los Angeles from the1920s through the 1960s.  It dives into the world of crime, corruption, and violence along with the racial tensions of the city.  This book is suggested for those who wanted more details regarding the historical setting presented in Devil in a Blue Dress.

The Film Noir Encyclopedia by Alan Silver, Elizabeth Ward, James Ursini and Robert Porfirio

Did you enjoy the book as well as the movie?  Then try this encyclopedia that covers film noirs in detail.  It explores the themes and motifs of the genre, while featuring pictures and stills of the movies and their stars.

Name: Margita Lidaka

Mama Black Widow

August 15, 2012

Author:  Iceberg Slim

Title: Mama Black Widow: A Novel

Genre: African-American, Urban Lit, GLBTQ

Publisher/Publication Date:  Old School Books, 1998

Number of Pages:  240

Geographical Setting:  Southside Chicago

Time Period:  1930s-1970s

Plot Summary:  Mama Black Widow tells the tragic tale of Otis Tilson, a 40-year-old gay drag queen living on Chicago’s south side during the racially turbulent 70s.  Much of the novel is told in a realistic way by Otis about how his family moved to Chicago from the south in the 1930s, and the hard times they had to endure from then on.  Most of the novel is spent examining Otis’s mother “mama,” a vile, manipulative, downright evil woman who basically destroys every member of the Tilson family.  She drives her husband away, coerced one of her daughters into prostitution, and a lot of innocent people suffer greatly by her hands.  The author of this novel, Iceberg Slim (former pimp) writes in a way that is both shocking and insightful.  The language is often blunt, candid, and very, very offensive.  Sex scenes are described in explicit detail, and tone often changes from jovial to deadly serious.  Issues such as integration, trade unions, Chicago’s underground gay scene, police brutality, and hatred for the white man are discussed at length throughout the novel.  Slim even admits in the introduction that he is not the greatest writer, but he writes for the common people, and “tells it like it is.”

Subject Headings: Chicago (Southside)–Police (Brutality)–House of Corrections–Plantations–Trade Unions–Black Power–Bars (Gay)–Drag Queens–Cross-dressing–GLBTQ–Pimps–Drugs–Guns–Prostitution–Religion–False Preachers–Sex–Erotica–Rape–Pedophiles–Martin Luther King, Jr.–Street Cars–The El

Appeal: Realistic, Shocking, Character-Driven, Blunt, Candid, Erotic, Frantic, Intense, Dramatic, Serious, Political, Steamy, Graphic, Comical, Gut-Wrenching, Tragic, Sad, GLBTQ, Sexy

3 Appeal terms that best describe this book:  Serious, Steamy, Graphic

3 Similar Non-Fiction works and authors:

Soul on Ice, Eldridge Cleaver

This non-fiction memoir by Eldridge Cleaver will appeal to Iceberg Slim fans for its ability to shock, outrage, and question the readers’ ideas of what it means to be black in America.  His memoir is both sincere, raw, and very engaging.  He says at one point, “I’m perfectly aware that I’m in prison, that I’ve been a rapist, and that I have a higher Uneducation.”  Cleaver made indeed be too offensive to some, but he always savagely honest.  He tells the truth and he knows it.

Manchild in the Promised Land, Claude Brown

Claude Brown is a young, streetwise criminal growing up in Harlem in the 1940s and 50s.  This novel does an excellent job of describing northern black ghettos in New York in a turbulent, thrilling way.  Everything from pimps, drugs, street vendors, local shop owners, police brutality, gangs, sex and violence, and the gay underground are discussed in this book.  This book is however, quite inspiring and affirmative because Claude Brown is one of the lucky few who “made it” in this brutal world.

Out and Proud in Chicago: An Overview of the City’s Gay Community,  Tracy Baim

This handy reference book guides the reader through Chicago’s long and rich history of the gay community.  Those interested in Slim’s descriptive scenes of obscure bars and drag clubs will enjoy the multiple photographs presented within these pages (both in color and black & white).  The book draws on many scholarly, historical, and journalistic sources and covers time periods from pre- WWI to WWII-1960s, and 1970s to the present day.

3 Similar Fiction works and authors:

Blow Your Mind, Eric Pete

The description of the book reads,”In this erotic novel of sex and revenge, Eric Pete takes the consequences of dark sexual fantasies one step further.”  This story is about Tanner Coleman, his wife Bianca, and her wild sister, pumpkin.  When a man named Henry shows up and blackmailed Tanner, their lives are changed forever in a truly twisted way.  Not for the squeamish, this hardcore erotic, steamy, violent novel will appeal to Slim fans for its challenging dialogue, absurd situations, and the pessimistic world view that “we all die, and it will probably be sooner rather than later.”  Very popular!

Drag Queen, Robert Rodi

Considering the titles mentioned above, Rodi’s novel Drag Queen is a bit more light-hearted and comical, but also very engaging.  One review describes it as “The Parent Trap meets Priscilla, Queen of the Dessert.”  Gay attorney Mitchell Sayer has just found out from his mother that he has an identical twin, who happens to live not far from him in Northern Chicago.  The thing is, Mitchell’s brother is now named “Kitten Kaboodle,” gown-wearing, stillet0 strutting star of Tam-Tam’s “All-girl” review.  Furious, Mitchell tries to force Kitten into “the real world,” but Kitten feels she has a few lessons to teach as well.  Comical, insightful, and full of the Chicago landmarks Slim famously paints throughout his books.

Last Exit to Brooklyn, Hubert Selby, Jr.

This graphic, brutally raw novel of characters living in Brooklyn during the 60s and 70s examines the anger and rage of many diverse individuals in a time where justice seemed non-existent.  Considered a classic of modern American writing, this book, as Slim would describe it, “tells it like it is.”  There are crooks, hoodlums, pimps, prostitutes, drag queens, gay men and women, police riots, and strikes galore.  Gritty and serious, blunt and brutally honest.  Truly essential.

Don’t Let My Mama Read This: A Southern Fried Memoir

August 13, 2012

Author: Hadjii

Title: Don’t Let My Mama Read This: A Southern Fried Memoir

Genre: African American Biography

Publication Date: 2008

Number of Pages: 219 p.

Geographical Setting: Georgia

Time Period: 1980s and 1990s

Series: N/A

Plot Summary: This fast-paced, character-driven, and humorous autobiography consists of stories from Hadjii’s childhood and teenage years.  Throughout the autobiography, Hadjii covers many interesting situations, like attending a predominantly white school, relating to his traditional parents, going to family parties, visiting church on Sundays, celebrating Christmas, drinking for the first time, taking a test for AIDS, and getting his first job.  In the author’s note, Hadjii admits that some parts of the autobiography are true while others are not although one consistent theme throughout many of the stories is Hadjii’s highlighting of the differences between people who are black and white.  In each chapter, Hadjii’s first-person language and voice are clear.  He is chatty and frank, and he uses this voice to plainly describe and comment on situations and characters from his early years.  Unlike many autobiographies, Hadjii’s story is not tragic or sentimental, but is sarcastic, critical, perceptive, and generally optimistic.  Nonetheless, even though the tone throughout the autobiography is generally light, Hadjii’s sharp observations often present deeper perspectives on issues, especially regarding being a black American growing up in the United States in the 1980s and 1990s.

Subject Headings: African-American Families; African-American Young Men; African-Americans; Family and Relationships; The Eighties (20th Century); The Nineties (20th Century); Southern States – Social Life and Customs; Southern States – Race Relations; Autobiographies (Adult Literature); Humor Writing; Memoirs;

Appeal: fast-paced, candid, contemplative, edgy, exuberant, humorous, introspective, playful, thoughtful, upbeat, closely observed, detailed, eccentric, lifelike, recognizable, and vivid primary and secondary characters, character-centered, episodic, family-centered, issue-oriented, strong language, thought-provoking, evocative, small-town, accessible, chatty, colorful, concise, conversational, descriptive, direct, frank, informal

3 Terms that Best Describe This Book: frank, funny, episodic

Similar Authors and Works:

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors

Mama Makes Up Her Mind: And Other Dangers of Southern Living by Bailey White, like Don’t Let My Mama Read This: A Southern Fried Memoir by Hadjii, will appeal to readers who are looking for another character-driven reflection about family and relationships in a small town in Georgia.  Although Bailey White recounts these stories as an adult and does not include an African- American perspective as in Don’t Let My Mama Read This: A Southern Fried Memoir by Hadjii, readers of Mama Makes Up Her Mind: And Other Dangers of Southern Living by Bailey White will appreciate her humorous episodic tales, closely observed and eccentric characters, and conversational dialogue throughout the novel.

Life on the Color Line: The True Story of a White Boy Who Discovered He Was Black by Gregory Howard Williams, like Don’t Let My Mama Read This: A Southern Fried Memoir by Hadjii, will appeal to readers who desire another autobiography that highlights family, relationships, and race relations in the United States.  Even though the tone and style ofLife on the Color Line: The True Story of a White Boy Who Discovered He Was Black by Gregory Howard Williams is far more serious and formal thanDon’t Let My Mama Read This: A Southern Fried Memoir by Hadjii, both autobiographies focus on how race affected their childhood and teenage years.  Another difference, however, is thatLife on the Color Line: The True Story of a White Boy Who Discovered He Was Black by Gregory Howard Williams takes place in Indiana in the 1960s unlike Hadjii’s upbringing in Georgia in the 1980s and 1990s.

How to Be Black by Baratunde Thurston will appeal to readers of Don’t Let My Mama Read This: A Southern Fried Memoir by Hadjii because it too is a satiric memoir that humorously focuses on perceptions and stereotypes that people have about African Americans in the United States.  Similar toDon’t Let My Mama Read This: A Southern Fried Memoir by Hadjii, Thurston tries to present a more nuanced and detailed impression of race relations and his background of growing up and living in America, and like Hadjii, Thurston deemphasizes the need for every black individual to represent his or her entire race.

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors

Betsey Brown by Ntozake Shange will appeal to readers of Don’t Let My Mama Read This: A Southern Fried Memoir by Hadjii in that it is another character-driven novel about an African American, Betsey Brown, growing up in a middle-class family and dealing with race relations in the United States.  Although the novel is set in Missouri in the late 1950s, Betsey is dealing with many of the same family issues as Hadjii inDon’t Let My Mama Read This: A Southern Fried MemoirAlthough Betsey Brown by Ntozake Shange is more poetic and atmospheric thanDon’t Let My Mama Read This: A Southern Fried Memoir by Hadjii too, it also is episodic and frankly humorous in many sections and contains a compelling story.

Life is Short But Wide by J. California Cooper will appeal to readers of Don’t Let My Mama Read This: A Southern Fried Memoir by Hadjii in that it is another character-driven novel about African-American families, friends, and neighbors in a small town.  Although the book is more sentimental in tone and takes place in Oklahoma, as inDon’t Let My Mama Read This: A Southern Fried Memoir by Hadjii,Life is Short But Wide by J. California Cooper contains multiple stories told by humorous main characters in a witty and lyrical style.

The Thang That Ate My Grandaddy’s Dog by John Calvin Rainey will appeal to readers of Don’t Let My Mama Read This: A Southern Fried Memoir by Hadjii in that it is another humorous novel about a young African-American boy, Johnny Woodside, growing up in a small town in Florida.  Like Hadjii, Johnny tells many stories about his adventures and the friends and family that he relates to on a regular basis as he learns many lessons about life.

Ghost World

August 8, 2012

Author: Clowes, Daniel

Title: Ghost World

Genre:  Graphic Novel

Publication Date: 1998

Number of Pages: 80

Geographical Setting:  Unnamed American town

Time Period: Early 1990s

Series (If applicable):  N/A

Plot Summary:  Enid Coleslaw and Rebecca Dopplemayer are best friends who have recently graduated from high school.  The graphic novel follows them through their transition into adulthood over the summer.  Their town is full of cheesy diners and record stores that never have what they want and the girls long for something, anything to excite them.  Both girls are pessimistic, but Enid revels in making people uncomfortable, especially her friend Josh.  As the days go by, the girls begin to drift apart as they grow ever more aware that their friendship is not built to last.

Subject Headings:  Graphic Novels, Female Friendship, Teenage Girls

Appeal:  Measured Pace, Contemplative, Earnest, Edgy, Melancholy, Flawed Characters, Eccentric, Open-Ended, Character-Centered, Urban Setting, Heavy Profanity, Conversational, and Informal

3 terms that best describe this book:  Melancholy, Heavy Profanity, Character-Centered

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors

The Art of Daniel Clowes: Modern Cartoonist by Alvin Buenaventura (editor)

An in-depth look at Daniel Clowes’ art and stories, the book includes some of his most famous works and some never before seen pieces.  For those who liked the art of Ghost World, this book is a great companion.

The 1990s by Mark Oxoby

This nonfiction book looks at American popular culture throughout the 1990s.  While Enid and Rebecca would probably have scoffed at the majority of people and events mentioned in the book, it is important to see what sort of world the girls were living in.

Making Comics: Storytelling Secrets of Comics, Manga, and Graphic Novels by Scott McCloud

Focusing on comics as a literary medium, this book combines information on why you should create a comic and how to do it.  Fans of Ghost World who want a chance to tell their own story will appreciate McCloud’s authoritative voice and helpful tips.

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors

Sleepwalk and Other Stories by Adriane Tomine

A collection of the first four of Tomine’s series comic series Optic Nerve, this book follows different characters that seem well-adjusted on the outside, but on the inside are struggling to make connections with those around them.  Set in a similar time period (late 80’s, early 90’s) to Ghost World, Sleepwalk also looks to explore the subtleties of human nature.

I Never Liked You by Chester Brown

This graphic novel steps away from the female protagonists of Ghost World, but keeps with the alienated youth theme.  The story follows Chester and his group of friends as they grow up.  While the art and dialogue seem simple on the surface, the story underneath is anything but.

Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi

Persepolis tells the author’s story of growing up in Iran during the Islamic Revolution.  Through her eyes, we see the toll it takes on her family and her country.  While Marjane’s adolescence and adulthood is very different from the girls’ in Ghost World, the irreverent tone and desire for more is found both.

Name: Erin Sloan

John Dies @ the End

August 1, 2012

Author:  David Wong

Title: John Dies @ the End

Genre: Horror

Publisher/Publication Date:  Thomas Dunne Books, New York. 2009

Number of Pages:  377

Geographical Setting:  “Undisclosed Location” in Midwest, United States of America

Time Period:  Modern Day

Series:  First two books of Web-Published novel

Plot Summary:  “Watch out for Molly.  See if she does anything unusual.  There’s something I don’t trust about the way she exploded and then came back from the dead like that.”  Such is the humor of David Wong and his buddy John, who dies at the end.  Dave is a guy in his mid-twenties, working a dreadful job at a video store, when John “accidentally” injects him with the black soy “sauce,” and everything around them goes to hell.  You see, Dave and John know the world’s going to end, and it is up to them to defeat the evil Korrock, a grotesque being from another dimension.  Along the way they recruit nerdy babes and hard-boiled cops, encounter genuinely scary (and original) foes like centipede-men who wear bad wigs, a man who is literally made of cockroaches, giant slugs and jellyfish, and the deadly bratwurst creature that can’t wait to “meat” you.  This is a tale for nerdy guys and the girls who love them, horror movie fanatics, and those who love creepy crawlies, because there are a lot of them.  Told in a style that is both funny and extremely graphic, you’ll be taken aback at how the characters develop over time, and you will care for them all the way to the explosive conclusion.

Subject Headings:  Psychic Powers–Time-Travel–Aliens–Cockroaches–Shadow Men–Bugs (Slugs, Worms)–Meat–Teenagers–Mental Disabilities–Amputation–Las Vegas–Reptiles–Jellyfish–Video-stores–Drug Addiction–Art (Paintings)–Hell–Guns–Explosions–Video Games–Dark Comedy–Romance–Bro-mance

Appeal: Bizarre,Shocking, Graphic, Genuine, Comical, Quirky, Action-Packed, Bloody, Emotional, Character-Driven, Over-the-top Violence, Dark Humor, Manly, Geeky, Blunt, Silly, Intense, Weird

3 Appeal terms that best describe this book:  Comical, Original, Bizarre

3 Similar Non-Fiction works and authors:

A History of Ghosts:  The True Story of Seances, Mediums, Ghosts and Ghostbusters.  Peter H. Akyroyd.

This is a novel about a man (a skeptic) who grew up in a household where Seances were a normal thing, and talking with ghosts was treated like a normal part of everyday life.  That man is Peter Akyroyd, grandfather of the actor Dan Akyroyd, who supposedly based much of his screenplay Ghostbusters on his grandfather’s life.  Did you know “ectoplasm” is something that actually exists?  This funny, insightful novel will appeal to Wong’s fans for its humor, quirkiness, and downright fun family history full of spirits!  Ghosthunters, look no further.

You Might be a Zombie and Other Bad News: Shocking but Utterly True Facts.  By Cracked.com

David Wong is the pseudonym of Jason Pargin, editor-in-chief of Cracked.com (the online humor magazine).  This hilarious novel combines articles from the various authors of the website into nugget-sized “facts,” with a semi-serious journalist tone.  Readers will love these tales that never take themselves too seriously, yet contain actual, researched information that skews societal norms, but, in turn, also defends them.  David Wong would be proud!

Fangoria’s 101 Best Horror Films You’ve Never Seen:  A Celebration of the World’s Most Unheralded Fright Flicks.  Adam Lukeman, Fangoria Magazine.

Simply put, those who truly love horror subscribe to Fangoria magazine.  In fact, most probably came to know about John Dies @ the End because of it.  This handy reference guide contains a plethora of reviews on horror films, comics, video games, music, and books!  This guide contains a fair amount of “Terror-Trivia” that will appeal to fans of Wong’s work, providing geeky insider knowledge into the myriad details that are the horror world.  Both common and obscure horror titles are included.  Not to be missed!

3 Similar Fiction works and authors:

The Best of H.P. Lovecraft:  Bloodcurdling Tales of Horror and the Macabre.  H.P. Lovecraft, August Derleth (editor)

This collection of short stories contains perhaps the “best” stories Lovecraft has to offer (The Shadow Over Innsmouth, The Dunwich Horror, The Shadow Out of Time).  The ancient monster Cthulu is obviously a creature of great influence in David Wong’s work.  These disturbing stories contain dark creatures from other dimensions, insane human beings, devilish animals, and wicked prophecies and blood-thirsty insects.  Deeply moody and always frightening, a bit of dark humor is thrown in from time to time.  Truly for adults only, make sure not to read these before you go to bed.

Knee-Deep in the Dead ( Doom #1)  Dafydd ab Hugh, Brad Linaweaver

This first book in a series based on the popular computer game Doom contains far more depth than one might associate with violent computer games.  You are a marine with a troubled past, and have now just heard things are not going too well on a moon-post created for “mysterious purposes.”  All of a sudden, you hear a terrible noise, inhumane screaming over your radio.  A swarm of creatures, grotesque, devilish, have just emerged from a portal nearby.  Will you survive the inevitable onslaught?  This book is full of insane battles, logic puzzles, and vividly depicted locales told in a fashion quite similar to David Wong’s.  Highly cinematic.

Parasyte (Volume 1)  Hitoshi Iwaaki

“They arrive in silence and darkness. They descend from the skies. They have a hunger for human flesh. They are everywhere. They are parasites, alien creatures who must invade – and take control of – a human host to survive.”  Such is the introduction to Hitoshi Iwaaki’s sprawling sci-fi/horror manga series, Parasyte.  Shin is a typical high school student until he is infected by one of the alien parasites.  Instead of destroying the parasite he instead forms a mutual bond with it and travels about Tokyo, challenging evil beings and humans alike.  Very gritty and graphic, this series also has strong characters, philosophical musings, and fast-paced, unique battles.  Quite unique indeed.

The Mediterranean Caper

July 23, 2012

Author:  Clive Cussler

Title: The Mediterranean Caper: A Dirk Pitt Novel

Genre: Adventure, Thriller, Suspense

Publisher/Publication Date:  Berkley Books, New York.  1973

Number of Pages:  372

Geographical Setting:  The Island of Thasos, Greece.

Time Period:  Modern Day

Series:  Dirk Pitt series

Plot Summary:  One of the first novels of Cussler’s Dirk Pitt series, this is a tale of intrigue, sabotage, and scientific exploration.  Dirk Pitt  is a rough-and-tumble, modern-day adventure-man with a troubled past, charming wit, and the occasional mean streak about him.  A member of the National Underwater and Marine Agency (NUMA), Dirk and his brainy colleagues embark on a mission to discover a missing creature in the evolutionary chain, only to be thwarted by a WWI bi-plane.  Pitt’s revenge on the nefarious plane leads to a tale laced with suspense, intrigue, picturesque Roman vistas, tricky villains, snarky quips, beautiful babes, and explosions galore.   This action-infused thriller is a page-turner and never lets up till the exciting conclusion.  As far as thrillers go, Cussler certainly knows what he’s doing.

Subject Headings:  Dirk Pitt (character)–Thosos (Greek Islands)–Military Bases–Submarines–Sabotage–Navy–WW I Planes– Bi-Planes–Classic Cars–Boats– Military History–Roman History–Greek Vistas–Aegean Sea–Labyrinths–Mediterranean–Troubled Pasts–NUMA (National Underwater and Marine Agency)–Adventure–War Criminals–Nazis.

Appeal:  Edgy, Informative, Shocking, Smarmy, Un-pretentious, Action-packed, Witty, Fast-paced, Richly detailed, Violent, Smart, Gut-wrenching, Spry, Loud, Serious.

3 Appeal terms that best describe this book:  Smart, Fast-paced, Loud.

3 Similar Fiction works and authors:

Blood of the Reich.  William Dietrich.

Those who enjoyed the German threads (and machines) in Cussler’s The Mediterranean Caper may enjoy this similar tale about a modern-day publicist who must find the truth about a story on the history of Nazi SS officers and an American Zoologist looking for a legendary energy source in Tibet.  Fast-paced and suspenseful, this story provides a female protagonist akin to Dirk Pitt who is thoughtful, playful, witty, and smart.  Told in alternating chapters (both the past and the present), this tale should please anyone looking for an engaging, page-turning thriller.

State of Fear.  Michael Crichton.

This thought-provoking suspense novel by Crichton is an eco-thriller taking place in various exotic locales such as Paris, Iceland, and the Solomon Islands.  Those who find Cussler’s technologically  intense scientific and militaristic facts intriguing will enjoy this tale about a millionaire dealing with a present-day concern: global warming.  This compelling, richly told tale is both intellectually stimulating with the action-packed, fast-paced pace readers love.

Thunderball.  Ian Fleming.

Those who love Dirk Pitt’s brash, some-what dark, womanizing ways will most likely enjoy this James Bond tale by Ian Fleming.  In this tale Bond deals once again with the evil criminal organization SPECTRE, which has just hijacked an NATO airplane containing two atomic bombs , and is demanding ransom.  Will Bond succeed?  And, will there be beautiful women to cavort with whilst examining cool gadgets and sketchy situations.  Most certainly so!

3 Similar Non-Fiction works and authors:

Castles of Steel.  Robert K. Massie.

This historical, non-fiction novel tells the tale of early, 20th-century naval history between the British and Germans during WWI.  The writing style of this work is filled with intriguing details, is thoughtfully described and is very scholarly, but not boring.  It is a military narrative of the finest proportions, and a good place to start for Cussler fan’s who enjoy his intricately described boats and machines of olden times.

Ancient Greece: A history in eleven cities.  Paul Cartledge.

Those who enjoyed the lushly detailed, mysterious vistas of The Mediterranean Caper might enjoy this historical novel about the development of eleven Greek city states and the politics thereof.  The book contains many significant details and contains a time-line, glossary, and list of important figureheads of the time.  Engaging and well-researched, fast-paced and highly accessible reading.

Horrible shipwreck!a full, true and particular account of the melancholy loss of the British convict ship Amphitrite, the 31st August 1833, off Boulogne, when 108 female convicts, 12 children, and 13 seamen met with a watery grave, in sight of thousands, none being saved out of 136 souls but three!   Andrew C.A. Jampoler.

This amusing, startling story tells the tale of the convict transport ship Amphitrite, and how it came to its ultimate demise off the shores of France in 1833, carrying over 100 women prisoners and their children.  Though non-fiction, this book is action-packed, written in the thriller/adventure style, and is full of intrigue and historical comedy and intrigue.  It contains bibliographical details and an index as well.

CBGB OMFUG

April 18, 2012

Author: Various (22 authors and illustrators collaborate for 9 vignettes)

Title: CBGB OMFUG

Genre: Graphic novel

Publication Date: 2010

Number of Pages: 112p

Geographical Setting: New York City (the Bowery)

Time Period: 1970’s, present day, the future

Series (If applicable): n/a

Plot Summary:  Through nine separate vignettes, the history and lore of the legendary, mythical, pivotal, incredibly dirty, and defunct Lower East Side punk rock club is examined and explained.  CBGB’s was ground zero for the mid-70’s NYC punk rock scene.  Artists that would emerge from CBGB’s include Ramones, Blondie, Patti Smith, and Talking Heads, as well as lesser-known, yet highly influential acts, such as Television, the Heartbreakers, the Dead Boys, and the Dictators. Varying in time period, some of the stories use the club as a main character, while others use it merely as a backdrop or meeting place.  The common theme running throughout the book is that of CBGB’s as a fertile haven for inspiration, community, discovery, expression, freedom, individuality, and lots of sex, drugs, and rock and roll.

Subject Headings: Punk rock music, New York City—nightclubs, 1970’s, Artists, Drugs and alcohol, Rebellion, Nostalgia, Nonconformity, Antisocial behavior, Self discovery, Youth, Fandom.

Appeal:  Breakneck, fast-paced, relentless, atmospheric, edgy, flamboyant, gritty, hard-edged, humorous, impassioned, magical, idealized, romanticized, nostalgic, sarcastic, sensual, artsy, bohemian, punk, vivid, inspirational, mythic, sexually explicit, strong language, urban, colorful, informal, passionate, witty, hedonistic, rebellious, reflective, street-smart, rowdy, energetic, fun, aggressive, joyous, enigmatic, self-aggrandizing, loud.

3 appeal terms that best describe this book: Energetic, passionate, enigmatic

Similar Authors and Works (why are they similar?):

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors:

Please Kill Me: the Uncensored History of Punk edited by Legs McNeill and Gillian McCain

This is an oral history of the New York punk scene from its infancy in the early 1970’s to its slow death in the early 1980’s strung together by interviews with the people who were there and making things happen.  The people who are still alive, anyway.  Interviewees (many of whom are portrayed in CBGB) include Iggy Pop, Patti Smith, Lou Reed, and members of the Ramones, the Stooges, New York Dolls, Television, Blondie and many more artists and other scenesters.  This is a great read for fans of ribald accounts of debauchery and degeneracy.

Ladies and Gentlemen, the Bronx is Burning: 1977, Baseball, Politics, and the Battle For the Soul of a City by Jonathan Mahler

In the 1970’s, large Northern cities found themselves broke, decaying, crime-ridden, and desperate.  None had it worse than New York.  The tumultuous year of 1977 is examined here; a year that included Son of Sam, the Blackout, punk rock, Studio 54 and disco, and ruthless political battles.  What is the conduit Mahler uses to examine and piece these events together?  — the World Series winning Yankees, of course.

Love Goes to Buildings on Fire: Five Years in New York That Changed Music Forever by Will Hermes

Sure, New York had the punk thing happening in the mid-1970’s, but during those years the city also witnessed the birth of hip-hop, disco, and salsa as well as playing host to fertile jazz and avant-garde/minimalist music scenes.  Here is an examination of those years, where the music seemed to get better as the urban blight grew worse.

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors:

My Brain Hurts: Vol. One by Liz Baille

This graphic novel series chronicles a group of gay,teenage New York punks making out, drinking beer, getting arrested, and flexing their gay activism muscles.  I include this as there was no mention in CBGB as to how entangled the NYC punk scene was with the seedier side of gay culture on Manhattan at the time (many a near destitute musician made rent by moonlighting as “chickens”, as in a homosexual prostitute who may not necessarily be gay but will do x for money.  Dee Dee Ramone has talked extensively about this topic [see: ‘53rd and 3rd by the Ramones], as well as others).

What We Do Is Secret by Kief Hillbery

Hollywood 13-year-old punk and gay hustler Rockets Redglare must come to terms with the suicide of his idol/guru Darby Crash, lead singer of the Germs (circa 1980).  This book is the closest equivalent to the seediness and nihilism that personified the L.A. punk scene in the late 70’s and early 80’s (as far as fiction goes.)

Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan

While this book is the farthest thing from the seediness that CBGB and the Lower Eastside personified, it is an excellent portrait of the feeling of freedom, possibility, and wonder that a night out in the big city can give a person as they find themselves on the cusp of adulthood and independence.  Even for rich kids from New Jersey.

Name: Bill

The Boys on the Rock

April 11, 2012

Author: John Fox

Title: The Boys on the Rock

Genre: LGBT

Publication Date: 1984

Number of Pages: 146p.

Geographical Setting: Bronx, N.Y.

Time Period: 1968

Series (If applicable): n/a

Plot Summary: It’s 1968 in the Bronx and Catholic High School sophomore, swim team star, and narrator Billy Connor is gay and knows it and likes it.  Unfortunately, he has only been able to explore his sexuality in very frequent, detailed, creative, and enthusiastic masturbation sessions that the reader will come to know very well.  Billy, not wanting to be drafted and sent to Vietnam, is a Gene McCarthy supporter who meets Al, the head of the local McCarthy campaign office.  Canvassing soon leads to lingering dinners at a pizzeria, which leads to making out, which of course leads to the sex that Billy has longed for.  Billy is very talented in graphic and detailed accounts of his and Al’s lovemaking, leaving not a thing to the reader’s imagination.  While Billy feels newly free and empowered by his relationship with Al, is it really love?  And is it a love that will last?  With the tumultuous Democratic presidential primary and a colorful cast of neighborhood friends and eccentrics as a constant backdrop, Billy brings the reader along for the first few baby steps he will take onto the path that will lead him to the man he will become.

Subject Headings: Coming of age stories, Gay teenagers, Eroticism, U.S. history–1968, Presidential elections–1968, First love, Homosexuality, Graphic sex–homosexual, Graphic sex–heterosexual, Political assassination, Gene McCarthy, Bobby Kennedy, Bronx, Competitive swimming, Catholic school, Homophobia, Nostalgia, Masturbation.

Appeal: Quick-paced, bittersweet, candid, passionate, adolescent, horny, dramatic, edgy, sexual, graphic, gritty, impassioned, nostalgic, naive, sensual, romantic, unpretentious, foul-mouthed, colorful, unrelenting, rebellious, melancholy, vivid, sexually explicit, steamy, issue-oriented, introspective, retrospective, political, historical detail, urban, colloquial, dialect, direct, unaffected, hormonal, empowering, gay, sweaty, messy, intimate, personal discovery, sexual discovery.

3 appeal terms that best describe this book: adolescent, gritty, sexually explicit.

Similar Authors and Works (why are they similar?):

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors

The Joy of Sex: The Ultimate Revised Edition by Alex Comfort

The Joy of Gay Sex, Revised & Expanded by Charles Silverstein and Felice Picano

The Joy of Lesbian Sex: A Tender and Liberated Guide to the Pleasures and Problems of a Lesbian Lifestyle by Dr. Emily L. Sisley and Bertha Harris

Yes, I know three books are not one book, but I feel I must evoke an “apples and oranges” (and “pears”[?]) exception in this case.  For people that may find appeal in any of these works, two titles will be completely useless (sort of) to them.  And the goal is to be able to satisfy 100% of readers, yes?

There is so much graphic sex and language in Boys that it would seem almost impossible that a reader wouldn’t take some stock of their own romantic life at some point.  These seminal, highly respected, and somewhat clinical works are certainly the “safe” and “tasteful” (yet graphically illustrated) suggestions that could be a stepping off point for a reader who may want to explore better or newer ways in which to get their freak on.

Time 1968: War Abroad, Riots at Home, Fallen Leaders and Lunar Dreams

The United States +1968= CRAZY: MLK shot, RFK shot, protests, race riots, political riots, cities on fire, Vietnam, Tet Offensive, Chicago Democratic Convention (police beatings and rioting and the MC5, for those too young), drugs, sex, rock and roll, men on the moon—and those are just the headlines.

While the rebellion, protest, and awakening of Billy’s 1968 took place mostly in his head and underwear, there is much happening around him that will inform a bevvy of decisions, political and not.  Here is an overview of that year with lots of color pictures.

Stonewall: The Riots That Sparked the Gay Revolution by David Carter

One year later from Billy’s awakening, the gay community of Greenwich Village rose up against police harassment to spark the beginning of the gay rights movement.  I can vividly picture Billy chanting slogans and punching cops in the face.  Here is a timeline of the events leading up to, and the riots themselves, as well as the aftermath.  This comprehensive account is the result of hundreds of interviews, public and sealed files, and a decade of research.

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors

Forever by Judy Blume

If one took a plot synopsis of Boys and replaced the Bronx with a woodsy, well-to-do suburb, and weekends of beer in the park with ski trips, and animalistic gay sex with meticulously thought-out hetero sex, and Billy with a Katherine, and a cowardly Al with an impossibly sensitive Michael and then washed everyone’s mouths out with soap, one would be left holding a copy of Forever. Had those who have taken the often challenged Forever (ALA 7th all-time) to trial had known that Boys may have been right around the corner, I shudder to think at the number of libraries that may have burned.  While certainly trying to please entirely different audiences, these two books are identical thematically, giving Forever large appeal to the reader who may have picked up Boys hoping for a sentimental tale of teenage sexual awakening, but just not as sticky.

Boy Meets Boy by David Levithan

Luckily for the high-school kids that populate Boy Meets Boy, Levithan has created a bizarro-world town where there is no prejudice of any sort, especially sexual.  This bodes well for a school that features a Harley riding cheerleading squad and a cross-dressing star quarterback/Homecoming Queen.  The book centers on Paul, who thinks he finally may have found true love in Noah.  Simultaneously uplifting and heartbreaking, Levithan brilliantly illustrates that freed of the burden of prejudice, hatred, and ignorance these are just kids, whatever their sexual orientation, awkwardly trying to find their place in the world and maybe a little happiness, too.

Best Lesbian Erotica 2011 by D.L. King, Giselle Renarde, Kathleen Warnock and Kirsty Logan

Best Gay Erotica 2011 by Johnny Murdoc, Natty Soltesz, and Rob Wolfsham

Sweet Confessions: Erotic Fantasies for Couples by Violet Blue

Again, I must use the “apples and oranges” rule exception.  For any reader of Boys that enjoyed the very detailed and descriptive sex scenes, here you go: a little something for everyone.

Name: Bill S.

Ghost World

December 1, 2011

Author: Daniel Clowes

Title: Ghost World

Genre: Literary Fiction, Graphic Novel

Publication Date: 2003

Number of Pages:80

Geographical Setting: Unnamed American Small Town/City

Time Period: Contemporary

Plot Summary: It’s the summer after high school graduation, and Enid Coleslaw and her friend Rebecca have no plans but to hit up the local diner and make sarcastic comments about the other, eccentric, customers. They have nobody else but each other, but the promise of the coming fall and their different priorities leads them to re-evaluate their friendship.

Subject Headings: Friendship, Graphic Novels, Teenage Girls

Appeal: sarcastic, episodic, melancholy, stark, quirky, flawed characters, thought-provoking, small-town, direct, witty, edgy, atmospheric, slice of life

3 appeal terms that best describe this book: melancholy, edgy, witty

Similar Authors and Works (why are they similar?):

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors

McCloud, Scott. “Understanding Comics”. Clowes’ take on the comic medium requires an intimate understanding of the comics medium; McCloud’s book, written as a comic, is the book where one can get that understanding.

Pekar, Harvey. “The Quitter”. Comic memoir about Pekar’s childhood where he was a quitter—when things grew tough, he quit and moved on. A mindset that Enid seems far too familiar with.

Wurtzel, Elizabeth. “Prozac Nation”. Enid goes through the motions of life as much as Wurtzel did in her own teen years; Wurtzel suffered from extreme depression, and it seems Enid is balancing between depression and ennui.

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors

Robinson, Alex. “Box Office Poison”. If Ghost World is about post-high school uncertainty and malaise, BOP is the same about post-college life, where a degree in English just means working part time at a book shop. Melancholy tone and simple art are here as well.

Salinger, J.D. “Catcher in the Rye”. The teen angst classic, of which Enid no doubt identifies. Similar tone as well.

Tomine, Adrian. “Summer Blonde”. Another slice-of-life about teens, with a similar melancholy tone and artistic style—Tomine was highly influenced by Clowes. And the central love triangle in both have nice echoes.

Name: Brian C.

The Heroin Diaries

November 16, 2011

nullAuthor: Nikki Sixx

Title:  The Heroin Diaries: A Year in the Life of a Shattered Rock Star

Genre: Arts and Entertainment; Autobiographies (Adult literature); Biography; Memoirs; True Crime

Publication Date: 2007

Number of Pages: 413

Geographical Setting: California

Time Period: Early 1980’s – Present

Plot Summary:  When Mötley Crüe was at the height of its fame, there wasn’t any drug Nikki Sixx wouldn’t do. He spent days, sometimes alone, sometimes with other addicts, friends, and lovers, in a coke and heroin-fueled daze. The highs were high, and Nikki’s journal entries reveal some euphoria and joy. But the lows were lower, often ending with Nikki in his closet, surrounded by drug paraphernalia and wrapped in paranoid delusions.  Mötley Crüe’s Nikki Sixx shares mesmerizing diary entries from the year he spiraled out of control in a haze of heroin and cocaine, presented alongside riveting commentary from people who were there at the time, and from Nikki himself.

Subject Headings: Sixx, Nikki, 1958-, Motley Crue, Rock musicians — United States – Biography, Drug addicts – Biography, Heroin addicts, Rock music, Drug addiction, heroin addiction

Appeal: Reflective, Candid, relaxed, bittersweet, uncomfortable, edgy, gritty, humorous, introspective, moody, paranoid, sobering, eccentric, insightful, realistic, character-centered, conversational

3 appeal terms that best describe this book: Reflective, Candid, humorous

Similar Authors and Works (why are they similar?):

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors

Everyone loves you when you’re dead: journeys into fame and madness by Neil Strauss

Neil Strauss considers it his job to hang around celebrities, rock gods, porn queens, up-and-coming starlets, and iconic superstars long enough, whether it takes moments or months, to find that minute, the one when the curtain finally falls away and the real person is revealed.  This collection of stories about those moments would be good for any fan of candid memoirs like The Heroin Diaries

Tommyland by Tommy Lee

Co-written with Anthony Bozza, Tommyland is a quick, enjoyable romp through the life of rocker Tommy Lee that sucks you in from the first page.  Anyone interested in the wild times of Motley Crue from a different perspective should pick this up.

The Dirt: Confessions of the World’s Most Notorious Rock Band by Neil Strauss

This is the life of Mötley Crüe, the heaviest drinking, hardest fighting, most oversexed and arrogant band in the world. Their unbelievable exploits are the stuff of rock ‘n’ roll legend.  The full story of Motley Crue from their beginnings to present day, a must have for rock biography fans.

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors:

Glass by Ellen Hopkins

Kristina thinks she can control it. Now with a baby to care for, she’s determined to be the one deciding when and how much, the one calling the shots. But the monster is too strong, and before she knows it, Kristina is back in its grips. She needs the monster to keep going, to face the pressures of day-to-day life. She needs it to feel alive.  The 2nd in a series, a gripping look at one person’s struggle with heroin, a good series for fans of heroin diaries.

Go Ask Alice by Anonymous

This groundbreaking classic is more compelling than ever for today’s readers. A sensation when it was first published and a perennial bestseller ever since, this real-life diary charts an anonymous teenage girl’s struggle with the seductive, and often fatal, world of drugs.   Another diary style book about the struggles with drugs and what a person goes through to shake the demons.

A hero ain’t nothin’ but a sandwich by Alice Childress

Dope. Smack. Junk. Heroin. No matter what you call it, you can’t change the fact that 13-year-old Benjie is on it. Oh no … he’s not hooked, though. He could stop anytime … really. But why is a young kid like Benjie using at all? A riveting novel about drug abuse, fans of The Heroin Diaries will enjoy this.

Name: Jason Rock