Goodreads Challenge 2019, Part Four

 I managed to read four great books this month! See if you find a new one for your virtual bookshelf:

Double DownDouble Down Trouble by J. L. Salter
Last spring I traveled to Houston for my niece’s wedding. While there, I contacted author/publisher Gunnar Grey, who graciously took time from her busy schedule to meet me for lunch and a little shopping. She mentioned that she was editing a book from our hound, so when this book released a short time later, I hurried to download it. But I didn’t get around to reading it until this month. What a ride! This is not the usual stuff we read from JL. There’s a lot of violence, and when I got through the first chapter I wondered if maybe the main character would wake up in her own room and realize she’d had a bad dream. Nope, this is a thriller, and you’ll need to read it to find out how the lieutenant governor of Tennessee, with help from one stranger, manages to save herself as well as a building full of senior citizens from two buses of armed escaped convicts. I can guarantee you’ll be in for a wild ride. I especially loved the wheelchair-bound but resourceful Señor Viejo.

 

51-qjt8yx8l._sy346_Too Close to Call by Mysti Parker
I enjoy Mysti’s romances, so when she announced she was part of a multi-author series I immediately ordered my copy. Lover’s Landing is the name of a coffee shop in the town of Love, GA. Its proprietors are proud of the fact that so many couples met and fell in love in their establishment. But one of the couples, social studies teacher Sean Dixon and attorney Helena Davis, went their separate ways after high school and don’t put much stock in the local legend. But now they’re both back in town, and both running for city council. This is an office Helena’s father has held for years. But sparks fly in more ways than one. Sean’s daughter plays a big role in helping them understand what’s important. As always, Mysti’s characters are fun and believable, the conflict is engaging enough to keep me reading, and the ending is truly satisfying.

 

26831761Shoes and Baby by S. Y. Robins

Clara Morgan owns a shoe store. A baby is left on the doorstep of her shop with a note to please take care of Selina, because she and the mother are in danger. She calls what I assume is the UK equivalent of Child Protective Services, and is told that the system doesn’t have enough foster care homes, so if she’s willing, she can take care of the child, which she happily agrees to do. She has no boyfriend and has never thought about being a mother, but somehow she knows she wants to do it. Her friends help. While the baby is being checked out at the hospital, she and the friends go out and buy all the necessities. Clara’s mother comes to take care of the baby. The handsome constable investigating the case just happens to have a roomful of baby furniture left from his daughter’s babyhood and brings it over. This was a cute story, but there wasn’t much of a mystery – the question of Selina’s mother is solved quite easily, and there really wasn’t much conflict.

Whenever I read a book from a UK author I learn new words. I looked up Babygro and discovered it’s what we call a onesie. A dummy is what we call a pacifier.

 

61qlxshaf9l._sy346_Love, Die, Neighbor by Joanna Campbell Slan
I downloaded this right after Joanna appeared as our Friday Fox’s guest author. It starts out rather slowly. Kiki Lowenstein is a young housewife with a toddler, an unfeeling dingbat of a husband and an overbearing mother-in-law. They’ve just moved into a new home – the same day the builders finished but before it could be cleaned professionally. So it’s a perpetual mess, because the toddler is, well, a typical toddler and won’t let Mom get things done. The lawn won’t grow because workmen continually come and go. The neighbors complain about the mess – especially the Nordstroms across the street. And hubby can’t understand why she can’t get stuff done. I felt so awful for this young mom and her struggles. But she keeps on trying – much longer than I would have. Mr. Nordstrom, a cyclist, takes a fall from his bike, and Kiki is there to call for help. But it’s not a simple fall – he’s apparently been poisoned, and Kiki thrown into a whirlwind as investigators try to determine who killed him and why. I really enjoyed reading this cozy mystery, and plan to read more of the series!

That’s my list for this month! Goodreads says I’m one book behind schedule, so hopefully I’ll be able to read more, now that the university semester is done. Happy reading, everyone!

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Posted in authors, book covers, Books, Goodreads Challenge, Patricia Kiyono, reading, TBR List | Tagged , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Singing Praises

The topic this week: Unsung heroes in books or movies: A character who does not get the credit that you believe he or she deserves.

It was my idea. I wish that I had done this ahead of time; I wish that I had made notes. I’m hustling as usual during this, the week prior to Easter, and I know, as soon as this is posted, things get into full-swing or just after the holiday, three more will come to mind.

Here are two:

One unsung, unappreciated hero who gained my heart a dozen years ago:
Remus Lupin, from the Harry Potter series.

For those of you who did not pick it up in the movies, and may have not read the books, here is my reasoning. [If you wish, skip to end; a hero with which you may well be more familiar will be there.]

If you don’t know either, I apologize and am sorry that you. You are missing out on good stories of knowing right from wrong, no matter who does either. You are missing out on stories of real friendship and family, of doing what is right, of being faithful and honorable and true; protecting the weak, righting wrongs and of forgiveness,(when applicable. Warning then: Spoilers ahead.)

In the movies it is shown/told that Remus Lupin was attacked by a werewolf and became one himself; he never embraced the life and stayed the intelligent and warm-hearted person that he always was, except when the Moon at the full of the moon. A potion to suppress werewolf behavior was developed, but he would undergo a physical change nevertheless. He was the best friend of Harry’s father (James) and to-be godfather,(Sirius) who were wild characters when young. Even so, they learned to change into animals themselves to support Remus during his changes, because they knew that he was the best of them. Remus had been ‘Head Boy’, yet failed to keep the other two in check when they bullied Severus Snape when he was a classmate of theirs.

Snape became a long-term professor at Hogwarts. After some years, Lupin joined the faculty. Lupin never forgave himself for letting James and Sirius pick on Snape, and he was always gracious and kind to Snape, despite Snape’s suspicions of him and of Snape’s understandably hard and suspicious attitude toward him.

Remus Lupin was always at the front of every fight against evil, “wands to the ready”. He gave Harry private lessons on how to protect himself and others. He privately counseled Harry. He tried to cushion the blow to Harry when much of the Wizarding world thought Harry to be lying about Voldemort’s return. Remus was against Harry learning just how much Harry’s fate and that of Voldemort’s downfall were intertwined because he felt, as many others, that Harry was too young to do anything about it. He guarded Harry in every way that he could, from taking a magical map from him lest it fall into the wrong hands and lead danger to him, to secretly returning the map when that threat was gone, (but more threats were to come). He stopped Harry from hurting Sirius whom Harry believed was responsible for his parent’s deaths (would therefore have destroyed two lives, Sirius’ and Harry’s). After the truth came out that Sirius was actually Harry’s caring godfather, Lupin is the one to hold Harry back to try to stop him from pursuing Sirius’ killer.Lupin

More is told of Lupin’s story within the books. When the outlook for the Wizarding World was dismal, Lupin was the one who consoled Molly Weasley,(Harry’s best friend’s mother), when she broke down in fear of anything happening to her and to her husband, because she did not know what would happen to their youngest children who had not ‘come of age’. Remus hugged her and assured her that he and the others would take care of them, should anything befall them.

When Harry, Hermione and Ron were on the arduous task of hunting horcruxes Lupin sought them out to offer his talents and services. (Harry turned him away, since Remus by then had a wife and baby on the way.)
I know that I have more in mind, but I never hear of anyone giving Remus Lupin the credit which I believe he deserves…if that has not been obvious from this post!

Any Harry Potter watchers and/or readers agree with me? Had you given Remus much thought or credit?

However wordy I have been, and even if you don’t know the Wizarding World you probably know Bambi, and the hero there merits even more credit, as far as I am concerned.

Bambi’s father, The Great Prince of the Forest.

He was responsible for all of the forest, apparently, but came for Bambi’s birth. He was not the warmest of fathers, but he was never unkind. He was a busy stag!

At the end of the movie, The Great Prince is up on the hill where we see him at Bambi’s birth, yet he steps aside to give Bambi his position.

I don’t get it.

In fact, unbidden, he twice rescued Bambi.
Sure, Bambi went up against the big, bad bull stag who was going to take sweet little Faline against her will, (as adults, we realize just what a terrible fate awaited her). It was heroic indeed, but, Bambi’s father sought him out when hunters killed his mother, essentially putting himself at risk of being shot himself.

Bambi's father

Then, when Bambi was caught in the great forest fire, it was his father who went back into the blazing trees and shrubs, fire all around, to find him and lead him to safety.

Screenshot (480)
I did not have the nerve to watch “Bambi” until I was grown up and had children of my own so maybe that is the reason I do not understand why Bambi would  take over for dear  old dad so soon.

I don’t think The Great Prince was ready to step down; he was still strong and a hero. Nor do I believe that was the kid ready to take over.

Did this occur to any of you?

I wish all of you a Blessed Easter.5b1faf97c1a76404d1f349708ccbfa42--pictures-of-god-amazing-pictures

Posted in blessings, book review, characters, decisions, Family, fantasy, Holiday, imagination, memories, reading, time management, Tonette Joyce, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

When You’re NOT the Star

Supporting Players in Fiction

By Jeff Salter

Let me start with a few comments about “unsung” characters in movies and popular fiction… before I discuss a few of my own characters who fit that description.

As some of you (who’ve read my blogs here or my posts on Facebook) already know, I love movies from the 1930s and 1940s… especially comedies. In more examples than I could begin listing, most of those great “oldie” comedies got a significant amount of their humor NOT from the leading lady or leading man… but from one (or more) of the supporting players. It was often an uncle or an aunt, or a housekeeper or a butler, or maybe just a friend — but if you went through that movie and deleted those scenes, the story simply wouldn’t have any life whatsoever.

Lucille Ball played this role – the wise-cracking sidekick – in several films before she became a TV star and movie headliner. As merely one example, consider her role in 1945’s “Without Love” — where she was in a supporting role for the headliners, Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn. Eve Arden played this type role so many times in different movies that I can’t even think of any specific titles, except 1937’s “Stage Door.”

One of my favorite male actors – always (that I can recall) in a supporting role and never the main star – who dished out innumerable witty observations and irreverent comments… was S. Z. Sakall. To capture the essence of the type role he played MANY times, look no further than 1945’s “Christmas in Connecticut” — which starred Barbara Stanwyck and Dennis Morgan. Sakall’s performance as Uncle Felix steals the show for me.

Remember the 1950s craze over Davy Crockett? Those Disney movies would have fallen quite flat if not for the wry involvement of Davy’s sidekick George Russel… ably played by Buddy Ebsen. [A hero usually appears a lot more courageous when paired with a mild-mannered (or even reluctant) partner.] And John Wayne – bless his heart – was NOT a terrific actor and couldn’t really carry a film… without his several character players. One face you’ll see over and over again in a movie with the Duke is Victor McLaglen.

My Own Characters

The Monday Fox kindly mentioned one of the major supporting players from my 2018 novel, “Double Down Trouble.” That man – whom I named Gregorio Rodriguez – goes by the nickname Viejo in the story. He’s a WW2 vet now in a wheelchair, in an assisted living home… now under attack. I loved being able to feature a member of the Greatest Generation, who’d been in the thick of the fighting during WW2 — in his case, in Italy, as I recall — and not only survived but prevailed. And I also found it gratifying that he doesn’t let his current circumstances (wheelchair) stop him from anything except stairs. Without Viejo’s material assistance and guidance, Julia Temple and Doc Holliday might not survive their afternoon.

Another of my favorite supporting players (from my own stories) is Eric Prima, who first appeared – in just two or three scenes (as I recall) – in “Rescued By That New Guy In Town.” He plays Kristen’s laid back, good-ole-boy brother — with gut wisdom far beyond his learnin’, as people used to say. I enjoyed writing Eric’s small (but significant) part so much that I brought him back for a more substantial role in my story, “One Simple Favor.” In that second appearance, the only character from the earlier novel is his girlfriend Velma — Eric now has third billing to the heroine (Tricia Pilgrim) and the mysterious hero (Michael).

As my last example of supporting players that I’ve really enjoyed creating, let me point to Margaret Stewart, who is the mother of the stubborn boyfriend in “Curing the Uncommon Man-Cold.” In that screwball comedy, I needed a wise (but witty) voice of reason to help nudge Jason into reality, to help Amanda Moore retain some of her sanity, and to assist both hero and heroine into realizing how much they truly did love each other.

Question:

Who’s your favorite “supporting” character? Do you consider her/him an “unsung hero”?

[JLS # 431]

Posted in authors, characters, Jeff Salter, Man-cold, novels, performances, protagonists, screwball comedy, Secondary Characters, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 16 Comments

I Can’t Do It!

Okay, let’s begin with a statement of fact. I don’t watch a lot of TV. I do read, but that being said I’d have to admit I haven’t found an unsung hero in any of the books I’ve read recently. I’ve wracked my brain trying to think of something, but I finally gave up. The only way to do this post is to tell you about a character that I thought was exceeding well done. He was unlikely to have a major role in the show, but he did.

I’m referring to the Netflix TV show El Barco. It’s a Spanish show, and since it is, I had to turn on the subtitles to watch it. I’ve never learned Spanish, but believe it or not, I started to recognize some of the phrases and words I heard. Here’s a blurb from Wikipedia that tells you what the show is all about.

 

A global cataclysm, caused by a fatal accident in GenevaSwitzerland, during the implementation of a particle accelerator, leaves the crew and students of the barque school-ship Estrella Polar (Polar Star) isolated in a post-apocalyptic world where most of the world’s land mass is now under water. The ship becomes their home in this isolated world. However, apart from the isolation, they also discover they are not alone, and must face “the others”.

 

The character I referred to was named Roberto, but everyone called him Bubble. He almost drowned, but he was saved at the last minute. He was a genius with a super high IQ, but after the drowning he ‘had a bubble’ on his brain and functioned as a mentally challenged man.

I’ve never seen an actor do such a good job in a role. There were a few flashbacks to the time before ‘the bubble’, and after seeing him as a normal man you had great appreciation for his acting skills. His total demeanor was different after the drowning, including the look in his eyes.

He had flashes of memory and could figure out problems no one else could. He saved the ship (where the show took place) more than once, and often offered advice that people followed. Still, he was easily manipulated and kept secrets that should have been told.

His best friend was the captain’s five year old daughter, but he didn’t remember that the man who tried to drown him was actually on the ship.

He knew that he was different, but he came to the conclusion that he liked being Bubble more than he did Roberto. He remembered enough to know that Roberto had done some bad things, but Bubble had friends who loved him and was happy.

I watched all the episodes of El Barco, and if you have Netflix I recommend it.

bubble

The actor’s name is Iván Massagué

Posted in Elaine Cantrell, TV | 4 Comments

Minor, or Major?

Old Music Sheet

No, we’re not talking about music, but when I hear the words major and minor, my first thought is scales and chords. This week, we were asked to discuss “unsung heroes in books or movies: a character who does not get the credit that you believe he or she deserves.” In other words, a minor character who shouldn’t have been so minor.

I don’t often watch movies, and the books I read are mostly new ones written by people I know either online or in writers groups, so the characters I name might not be familiar to many of you. But I’ll give it a shot. I don’t think I can make a post about just one minor/major character, but I’ll give you a short description of three.

I recently responded to a Facebook question asking what movie I’d seen at least five times and still enjoyed watching. I could only think of one: A Charlie Brown Christmas. I wouldn’t say that I could watch it over and over, but I haven’t yet gotten to the point where I’ll leave the room to find something else to do if someone had it on. I love all the Peanuts characters, but I’ve always had a special place in my heart for Schroeder. I suppose part of it is because he’s musical, but I also love that he’s the voice of reason. I’d love to see him in his own feature film. He reminds me of the characters in two of my favorite TV shows, Big Bang Theory and Young Sheldon. Like Sheldon, Schroeder is intellectually far above the rest of the Peanuts cast. But he’s still one of the gang.

I recently watched a Netflix movie called Dumplin.’ It’s about Willowdean Dixon, a not-so-slender teen who has identity issues stemming from having a beauty queen single mother. Growing up, she had two people she could depend on – her aunt, who took care of her, and her best friend Ellen. Ellen is as gorgeous as a model, is popular, and has a boyfriend, but she always makes time for Will. Will’s story was great. I love how she found her true self and accepted herself. But I’d love to know more about Ellen. She’s remained a true friend to Will, through all the rough times. And she backs away from the friendship only when Will thoroughly insults her. I’d love to know what it is that she loves about Will, and why they remained such good friends.

As for books, I recently read an interesting story called Double Down Trouble by J. L. Salter. It was an entertaining read with the hero and heroine getting into all sorts of tight situations, but the real hero for me was Señor Viejo. What a man! Even from a wheelchair, he was the guy who made everything happen. He knew how things worked and had the answers, and he never lost his cool. Without him, the good guys would probably not have won.

I suppose I could come up with a few more examples, but since my attention wanders when reading and writing long posts, I’ll end here.

What minor characters would you consider to be more major?

Posted in Books, characters, movies, Patricia Kiyono | Tagged , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Guest: Author Jeffrey Siger

I have had my guest in my sights for some time. Jeffrey Siger and I became Facebook friends while trading comments on the pages of a mutual friend, (and past guest of mine). He is a funny man, a sophisticated man, and always a gentleman.

JMSiger photo

Picture this: A boy from Pittsburgh grows up to become a Wall Street lawyer, but gives it all up to move to a Greek island, where he become a writer of internationally successful crime novels.

That’s not the plot of a mini-series; that happens to be Jeffrey’s life.

Jeffrey has an incredibly interesting life, a life most of us would not even think to dream of. He agreed readily once I finally asked him to join us, but oh, to ask questions that have not already been asked so many times of him is simply not possible.

Thank you for the time from your busy life to be here with us, Jeffrey, and for indulging me.

It’s hardly an indulgement, Tonette, it’s an honor!

Before we get to your wonderfully successful series, let’s talk about your other works, which are fascinating.
Among the anthologies to which you have contributed is “Creating Stories”, part of the “Making a Story” series. Would you tell our readers a bit about this?

Tim Hallinan is a great friend and former blogmate on MURDER IS EVERYWHERE, a site where ten distinguished writers from around the world share new posts everyday about the lands in which they place their books (I post on Saturdays about Greece). One day, Tim asked for “volunteers” to contribute to a book he’d long envisioned would show aspiring writers there’s no one best or right way to practice our craft, and to reassure our colleagues there’s more than enough room in our writing world for outliners, seat-of-the-pantsers and all those in-between. His call resulted in twenty-one experienced crime writers sharing their techniques on “How they plot” in a work edited by Tim that’s still drawing attention on Amazon seven years after publication.

Other intriguing titles of work in which you have contributed stories are “Sunshine Noir” and “Bound by Mystery”. What relationship have the titles to the stories?

SUNSHINE NOIR has a funny story behind it. It’s edited by two other of my Murder is Everywhere chums, Annamaria Alfieri and Michael Stanley, and contains the contributions of seventeen authors who place their stories in hot and sunny climes, locales far different from the chilly venues of Nordic Noir. And in that distinction is the funny story.
A few years back, I was on a panel filled with Nordic Noir authors at the Iceland Noir writers conference in Reykjavik. Someone in the audience asked me how I felt, as a writer who based his books in sunny Greece, about all the attention Nordic Noir mystery writers received for their work. I said, “If you’re asking whether I’m jealous of my frozen colleagues who live in lands having fifty different words for snow, while I sit on a sandy Aegean beach dangling my toes in the sea, surrounded by bikini clad fans as I type away, the answer is not a bit. I prefer my Sunshine Noir lifestyle.”
Yes, it got a big laugh. But it also triggered the idea in Stanley Trollip (one-half of Michael Stanley) to put together an anthology of work by Sunshine Noir writers bearing that title!
BOUND BY MYSTERY is an anthology of new short stories written by thirty-five Poisoned Pen Press authors on the occasion of PPP’s twentieth anniversary, edited by its assistant publisher, Diane DiBiasi. Poisoned Pen Press has since been acquired by Sourcebooks as its mystery imprint.

You also donated a story to “Shaken: Stories for Japan”, for the Japanese Relief Foundation, as a fund-raiser for the victims of the earthquake and tsunami of 2011.How did you become involved?

Once again I have Tim Hallinan to blame. In the aftermath of that horrendous tragedy, Tim reached out to his friends in the writing community for contributions to an anthology that would donate all proceeds to tsunami victims. Not only did twenty great writers respond, Amazon agreed to forgo its customary share, assuring that every penny paid for SHAKEN: STORIES FOR JAPAN went to the “2011 Japan Relief Effort.”

We have many writers, some among us, (plus many of our readers and friends), who feel that they are less than successful or would be, (if they pushed their writings), so they get discouraged. Will you please share the philosophy which took you away from your old life and into your new?

I wish I had a precise answer to that question. But let’s start from a basic principle; one that if you don’t embrace inevitably will lead to disappointment: Writing is a lousy way to make a living, but a wonderful way to make a life. Yes, there are some who will achieve great fame and fortune in the craft, but if that’s what drives you—as opposed to a passion for writing—I wish you Godspeed.
In my case, I walked away from a position as a name partner in my own New York City law firm to write of people and places in Greece I cared deeply about. I was fully convinced when I made that decision that in one year as a lawyer I’d likely earn as much as I would over my entire career as a writer. Still I took the risk, because I’d come to the conclusion I’d not live forever. (I should add, only one of those two earlier conclusions seems assured. )
Perhaps the best I can do in the way of passing along a philosophy is to share the perspective I gained the evening of my very first book signing—an event I shared with the great Tom Perry. After our event, Tom regaled me with tales of his own journey along the writer’s path and in summing up his feelings, expressed mine perfectly: “I can’t believe that every day when I wake up, all I have to do is write.”
If you have that fire in your belly, don’t be discouraged, at least not for long. We’ve all experienced the doubts, and always will. It comes with the territory. Just enjoy the ups, and push aside the downs.

You have numerous awards, and have been nominated for a Barry, (Harlan Coben and Lee Child numbering among the past winners). Did you ever think that your success would take you this far?

Not in my wildest dreams. All I ever hoped to achieve was to earn the recognition and respect of my peers, and to the extent I’ve done that, I feel blessed. The rest is fun, but not what drives me, though I must admit that having “The New York Times Book Review” select me as Greece’s thriller writer of record did make me tingly all over.

Speaking of far, twice I have moved to small-town America and found it impossible to find my niche, yet you have found the Greeks to be welcoming and have allowed you into their society. Is there any ‘glass ceiling’ or barrier which you feel that you cannot penetrate?

If there is one, I’m not sure I’d want to penetrate it. In my experience, prejudices exist to protect the severely insecure, and Lord spare us from that unpredictable lot. I’d rather contend with a hard-ass any day.

You are one of the few people that I know who understands of the disastrous and misguided (at best) formation of “Yugoslavia” and the lasting effects of the break-up with mal-formed borders. (One set of my grandparents-in-law had a Capulet-Montague situation, being Croatian and Slovenian.) You have a truly ‘simpatico’ (sorry, don’t know the Greek word) relationship with the Greeks within the borders of Macedonia. Do you feel “Greek” in soul, or by osmosis?

I don’t know from where my “Greekness” comes, because I’m not Greek by birth or heritage. Yet, from the moment I first set foot on Greek soil I felt I was home, and the Fates embraced me at that moment with friendships and inspirations that continue to this day. Whatever the reason for my good fortune I can say without reservation that my heart and soul are Greek, and I’m deeply honored at how Greeks treat me as one of their own—in both the good and not-so-good aspects of membership in that proud family.

JM Siger MykonosMob-FrontCover-RGB-72res-1400pixels

THE MYKONOS MOB, by JEFFREY SIGER
The Aegean Greek island of Mykonos is a world-renown, 24/7 hot-spot playground for the international rich and famous.  When a corrupt former police colonel who runs the island’s protection rackets is gunned down, Chief Inspector Andreas Kaldis finds himself face-to-face with the nation’s top crime bosses, all just as baffled as Andreas over who’s responsible for the assassination––and why. While Andreas wrestles for answers in an effort to head off an all out war for control of the island’s vice operations, his wife, Lila, struggles to find a meaningful role for herself beyond wife and mother.  Andreas’ investigation and Lila’s search bring them to her parents’ summer home on Mykonos where she meets Toni, an American ex-pat with a contagious, iconoclastic zest for life, a reputation as a fixer and finder of stolen goods, and a late night gig as a piano player in a gender-bending bar.  Together they hit upon a plan to mentor young island girls caught up in an exploitative culture, unaware that their well-intended plans are on a deadly collision course with Andreas’ investigation.

Now, let’s get to plugging your Greek Inspector Andreas Kaldis series. How does a nice, Jewish boy from Pennsylvania who wanted to be a pediatrician, end up with a Greek policeman alter–ego? Does he ever surprise you with where he wants to go, say or do, (like some of my characters)?

It appears I have no secrets from you, Tonette.  You’ve hit upon a very interesting point, because up until a few books back I never realized how unique was my choice of a protagonist in Andreas Kaldis. I was on tour with a new book, and happened to be sharing a panel with two other American authors of mystery-thrillers based in foreign cultures. In response to a question about why we chose the protagonists we did, my mates on the panel drew a very clear distinction between their main characters and mine. They each used an American protagonist living as a foreigner in a foreign land, while mine was native born, a choice each said he would never dare attempt.
That’s when it struck me. As clear thinking as those gifted writers were in their reasons for not choosing to risk viewing the cultural nuances of lands foreign to them through the eyes of native born protagonists, such concerns had never crossed my mind. I’d spent more than thirty years amid life in Chief Inspector Andreas Kaldis mystery, and felt more at home there than anywhere on earth. I wanted a local as my lead character to tell it like it is about Greek culture, politics, society, and foibles, and, Andreas fit that role perfectly. I never saw risk in creating a native born hero, for I felt confident that Andreas would show me the way. And show me the way he has, leading his crew along twisting, turning, fast-paced story lines while I traipse behind chronicling their adventures as best I can.

You are one of the few authors that I know who actually still goes on book tours. Please tell us about them.

I tour because I love the interaction. To me, an essential part of the writing life is the camaraderie of our writing community, of which readers are the most essential element. I’m also naturally gregarious, and don’t mind enduring the slings and arrows of a hard questioning audience. Some might say it takes me back to my days as a lawyer being interrogated by a judge.  Also, touring gives me the chance to meet booksellers face-to-face, and they’re who introduce me to new readers through their recommendations. It all comes back to my central premise—writing is a wonderful way to make a life—and for me being on tour is a big part of the joy.

Your series titles are alliterated. Was that planned out, or did the names just fall into place, by their place?

The first two titles, “Murder in Mykonos” and “Assassins of Athens” were that way by coincidence, but with their success I was trapped in Alliterative Title Hell. My most recent title, THE MYKONOS MOB, is the tenth alliterative title (April 2019, Poisoned Pen Press—an imprint of Sourcebooks), and I just might have to invest in a larger thesaurus for the next one.

I try my half-Italian hand at making some Greek foods and pastries, since I now longer live near Greek friends, restaurants and church picnics, but I can only imagine how incredible it all must be there. Tell me that you are enjoying every morsel!

I love Greek food, but rather strictly follow the “Mediterranean Diet.” Otherwise the “eat, eat” (and “drink drink”) aspects of legendary Greek hospitality will quickly overrun your waistline.

Jeff, I wanted so much to be an archaeologist when I was a kid, and had my sights on Greece and Macedonia. I appreciate the photos that you post on Facebook so very much; please keep them coming.

Tonette, your wish is my command!

Jeffrey is on a world book tour and graciously did hte interview early for me. He has just returned to the States from the European leg  of the tour and from promoting  his books Down Under. He is still touring  across the country, ( I think he is still in California.Gee, don’t you pity his life??? LOL!)

I wish to thank Jeffrey again for joining us today. It’s been a real pleasure.
Here is how everyone can learn more about Jeff and his works.

Website: www.jeffreysiger.com
Publisher: https://poisonedpenpress.com/authors/jeffrey-siger/
Blog: www.murderiseverywhere.blogspot.com
Facebook: @jeffrey siger
Twitter: @jeffreysiger
Instagram: jeffrey_siger
Publicist: msbarson@gmail.com

Jeffrey Siger is an American living on the Aegean Greek island of Mykonos. A Pittsburgh native and former Wall Street lawyer, he gave up his career as a name partner in his own New York City law firm to write mystery thrillers that tell more than just a fast-paced story. His Chief Inspector Andreas Kaldis novels are aimed at exploring serious societal issues confronting modern day Greece and the world at large, while touching upon Greece’s ancient roots.

The New York Times Book Review honored his work by designating Jeff as Greece’s thriller novelist of record, the Greek Government’s General Secretariat of Media and Communications selected him as one of six authors—and the only American—writing mysteries that serve as a guide to Greece, and Library Journal named his ninth book in the series, An Aegean April, as one of the best books of 2018. He’s also received Barry and Left Coast Crime Best Novel award nominations.

Jeff’s work is published in the US, UK, Germany and Greece, and he’s honored to have served as Chair of the National Board of Bouchercon, the world’s largest mystery convention, and as adjunct professor of English at Washington & Jefferson College, teaching mystery writing.

His new book, The Mykonos Mob, is the tenth in Jeff’s series and explores the wildly profitable dark side of this renowned 24/7 island playground for the world’s rich and famous, the forces battling for control of its vices, and the innocents affected by it all.

Jeff blogs about Greece every Saturday on www.murderiseverywhere.blogspot.com and can be reached at www.jeffreysiger.com, on Facebook @jeffrey siger, and on Instagram at jeffrey_siger

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Yippee-Ki-Yay

Finally READING the Classic Westerns

By Jeff Salter

Though I have been a huge fan of Westerns – on TV and at the movies – for my entire life, I somehow never got around to READING hardly any of them… until recently. Oh, I did read two when I was a kid: one based on the Flint McCullough character from the TV show, Wagon Train … and another novel whose title and author I’ve forgotten. In fact, the single detail I recall about that story is the horse’s name, Cherry Pie.

Not sure why reading westerns never took off with me… since I was then – and am now – a big reader. I devoured juvenile biographies in fourth and fifth grade and (a couple of years later) read all the James Bond titles and many other spy novels.

As a public librarian, I watched a devoted clientele devour our genre collection of Westerns… some of those patrons re-reading the same titles over and over. And I wondered why — what was it about those stories that held the interest of our readers and brought them back for subsequent visits?

What focused my attention back on reading western stories myself was my involvement with a manuscript this past June through August — my first novel featuring an 1880s cowboy. To get the details correctly, of course, I did my due research — I Googled topics from period food to clothing to firearms. And to get the feel of the prevailing language, I turned to the classic Western writers, Louis L’Amour, Max Brand, and Zane Grey. Of course there are certainly other quality Western writers out there –– and I sampled perhaps a half dozen of those “newbies.” But I kept gravitating back to the big three — who, among them, have written hundreds of titles and inspired many scores of films and TV shows. And sold hundreds of millions of copies!

Did those authors in the Big Three get all their details correct?

No… but in a very real way, those in the Big Three actually helped form our collective notions of what the Wild West was like — myths and all. [Or, maybe it’s best said that they formed the “bible” of what the Old West COULD have been like… or perhaps SHOULD have been.]

In the course of this research and sampling last autumn, I settled on L’Amour as my favorite of the Big Three. And I quickly decided that L’Amour’s 17-volume series on the Sackett family was the most interesting.

sacket-land-1

Like many of L’Amour’s titles, this one has several completely different covers.

L’Amour didn’t write the Sackett tales in order, but he did go back and fill in the historical gaps, beginning the chronology with 1974’s Sackett’s Land, which introduces us to Barnabas Sackett, a poor but strong Cambridgeshire [England] man living in 1599. It’s easy to see where the 19th century American Sackett boys got their grit. Barnabas is self-reliant, courageous, intelligent, and noble. — just like the generational offspring he sired.

Among the many aspects of L’Amour’s writing that stands out for me is his research… especially in the geography and history of the areas in which his stories are set. In typical Western movies, we’d see the same towns over and over, and the same prairies… the same mountain ranges. But L’Amour takes his readers into the ancient lava flows and salt flats… among other authentic areas.

Caveats

In reading Westerns – at least those written many decades ago – one encounters a lot of the prevalent stereotyping of Native American tribes. With few exceptions, most of those “Indians” are viewed as dangerous savages. I won’t debate such depictions here (though I have both Choctaw and Seminole blood in my veins) — but I feel obligated to warn modern-day readers that such depictions exist in many titles of the Big Three. If you can get past that aspect, you can enjoy a rollicking good yarn.

And what is the actual draw to these rollicking yarns? Well, the action, of course. A strong alpha male standing up for truth and justice… and protecting any females – usually pretty – who happen into his pathway. Are they formulaic? Well, yes. But not much more so than most of today’s action films. I mean, have you ever watched a title in the Die Hard film franchise and truly doubted whether John McClane would survive to vanquish the bad guys?

In some of the stories I read, I had to frequently suspend my disbelief. It was simply too, too convenient (for the author) that the characters he needed for a scene were always where the hero predicted them to be… at the precise time they were needed to be there. Simply too, too coincidental that “word” would get out to isolated prairie towns and outposts about so-and-so, long before telephones… and before the Internet’s social media was spreading fake news.

And here was a huge whopper from that first Sackett story: the hero somehow knows exactly where – in the entire continent of North America – two particular ships would land… and he perfectly times it to within a few days. Really? And Barnabas Sackett had never been on a large ship… never even crossed the English Channel. Oh well, it’s fiction.

LouisLamour-99

Now a word about L’Amour as a person. He’s been deceased since 1988 and yet some of his books are still coming out… supposedly his own original stories which have been simply located and dusted off by his heirs. Really? Hmm. Call me a skeptic. Maybe his relatives found a box full of notes on concepts that L’Amour wanted to develop… but did he actually draft those tales? Did he even have time to outline them? I’m doubtful.

Still, I give the family credit for continuing his rich tradition and staying true to his diligent research.

L’Amour eventually wrote 100 novels, over 250 short stories, and (as of 2010) had sold more than 320 million copies of his work. By the 1970s his writings were translated into over 10 languages. Almost all of his works are still in print.

I can’t find the source for this now, but some critics have soundly trashed the biographical claims of one of the Big Three… basically asserting that the author had actually done little or none of the wide variety of things claimed on his book jackets. I don’t remember if it was L’Amour, Brand, or Grey who is charged with embellishing his life’s story, but I’m willing to believe any of them could have been tempted to pad his resume a bit. He wouldn’t be the first celebrity to do so.

[JLS # 430]

 

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