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farsideI’ve been a fan of Ben Bova since I was in High School and have read many of his books including Mars and Jupiter, but it’s been a while since I have read any other of his works. I decided to jump back Bova‘s Grand Tour series after reading the description for the Farside novel. I’m three quarters of the way through the book of the story that follower a group of scientists trying to build a large telescope on the far side of the Moon in order to get the first images of a Earth-like planet discovered around a distant star and the challenges that are standing in the way of them accomplishing their goal. One thing that I love about Bova‘s works is that his stories are easy to read, as well as well written and thought out. Farside may not be as good as Mars was all those years ago, but I am enjoying what I have read so far. I am also looking forward to reading New Earth, Titan, Saturn, and Venus at some point in the future.

dracopediaI have been throwing around this idea involving dragon lately. The book deals with how to draw dragons but also gives some useful background, which is what I was really looking for. It has also given me several new idea simply based on the fact that the book deals with more than your run-of-mill winged dragons. There are also drawings of land dragons, sea dragons, basically any type of dragon for all habitats. Should be interesting.

I love military science fiction, which is funny because I have an absolute loathing for guns. Maybe it’s because of the fact that conflict and fighting are an everyday part of life and the world, but when I just happened to walk into a local book store and came across The Cobra Trilogy by Timothy Zahn, I knew I had to have it. Somewhere, I picked up one of these books a long time ago, but it wasn’t the first in the series, and no matter how hard I tried, I failed to find the first book in any used bookstore or online, at least for a reasonable price.

The story, from what I understand from reading the description on the back, centers around a man and how he came to join an elite military force known as the Cobras. This is not done on a whim, however. All of humanity is in danger of being wiped out, one colony at a time. Like most soldiers, this character decides to join not only to save his own home planet, but to take back and save the one that have been lost, as well as, to make sure that those that have died, did not die in vane, for nothing.

I have always wanted to write the science fiction/murder mystery that could beat any stand-alone science fiction or mystery story. Eh, the day will come. In the meantime, the biggest issue that I have is how to balance my reading when it comes to science, science fiction, murder mystery or crime fiction. When you think about there is a lot there to consume, take in, and read. There is learning the science that goes behind the science fiction and then there is reading the science fiction which helps me find my style and voice. It’s the same thing with crime fiction, but I also have to understand law as well as get into the mind of a cop, and – even darker – the mind of a career criminal or killer. This means even more reading.

I have already mention the books that I want to read this year to help me find my science fiction voice, now I have compiled a list of books that will help my understand crime, crime fiction and the mind of the a criminal. But this can also be helpful on other ways.

When I think about what drives a story, I think about the characters. Characters, after all, are more interesting then even the coolest spaceship or plot device. I mean, take Zombies, for example, Zombies are interesting but the stories about them are nothing without the conflict that arises between two or more characters that must somehow find a way to live together despite their differences and given their current life and death struggle. Easier said then done.

So here is a list, as best as I can compile at this point, of crime fiction and non-fiction that is on my “to read” list for this year:

  1. The Mind Hunter: Inside the FBI’s Elite Serial Crime Unit by John Douglas and Mark Olshaker
  2. Journey Into Darkness by John Douglas and  Mark Olshaker
  3. The Poet by Michael Connelly
  4. The Last Coyote by Michael Connelly
  5. Whose Body? by Dorothy L. Sayers
  6. The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler
I have to say that I really like the mix of fiction and non-fiction as well as the mix classic mystery fiction and current mystery fiction.

If there is one author this year that I have really come to like and admire it would be Michael Connelly. Connelly has a way of making his characters come alive all the while leaving the reader wanting more.

In The Concrete Blonde, the scenario was no different. I read the book in no time and found myself eagerly waiting for my lunch break to continue the story of Detective Bosch as he hunted down the killer that had eluded police for many years. The worst part was that the police had already thought they had captured their man.

In the opening pages of The Concrete Blonde Bosch finds himself on trial for the death of a man named Norman Church, the alleged Dollmaker, a serial killer thought to have killed eleven prostitutes who then painting their faces in heavy make-up before dumping their bodies where they could easily be found, as if the killer was taunting the police. But Church was never tried because he was shot and killed by Harry Bosch the night that Bosch learned that he was the killer when Church went for what Bosch thought was a gun. It was in fact his toupee.

Now Bosch is forced to sit in front of a jury of his peers as the prosecutor argues that he killed the wrong man, and that the Dollmaker is still out there. Bosch knows that is ridicules, but he is hard pressed to explain a mysterious note that turned up at police headquarters which makes the unbelievable claim that the police shot and killed the wrong man, and that the Dollmaker is defiantly still alive. Confused, Bosch studies the letter but is unable to explain how the hand writing and poetic nature of the letter does indeed sound exactly like the Dollmaker even though he had died four years previous. Worse yet, the author of this letter can prove he is authentic and directs the police to a undiscovered body of a victim buried in concrete. A blonde.

Now Bosch is forced to not only solve this new murder but protect his previous investigation into the Dollmaker case as the lawyer for the widow of Church discovers that the main claim of her case may in fact be true and that the Dollmaker may not be dead after all.

The Concrete Blonde is a rollercoaster ride as Bosch and the LAPD investigate every avenue in their attempts to find who the true identity of the killer really is. Worse yet is the realization that the killer seems to have inside information into the first Dollmaker case, a clue that could mean that the LAPD is hunting one of their own.

To say that I liked this book would be an under statement, even if I did figure out who the killer was before the fact was revealed to me in the story. Regardless I kept turning pages which in my book is always a sign of a well written story.

Rating (Out of 5):

Like many science fiction fans, one things that has always interested me about the genre is the area of military science fiction and the attempts that have been made to predict the future of military technology. And while Crash Dive is not necessarily a collection military science fiction stories, it does have stories dealing with military fiction from the past, present and future.

I know what you are thinking. You are thinking What an interesting title for a book. And if you had only read the first portion of the books title you might be confused about whether or not this was a book about writing sleuths or is this a book about writing erotic fiction? Let me assure you it is the former rather then the latter.

I came across this book while trolling through some crime writing blogs. What really caught my eye about this book, however, is the fact that the writer is from Colorado, and more specifically Highlands Ranch which is perhaps a dozen miles from where I live in the ‘burbs of Denver.

The book deals with all area of Private Investigation, and not just the areas of dealing with PI’s who are in the business of solving murders. In the Private Investigative fields, a PI can be hired to trail cheating spouses, insurance scammers, debt collectors…you name, this book covers it.

References that lead me to discovering this book can be found here and here. I should also not that this book is only offered in eBook form.

Jack Hillgard stopped in front of the High Fliers Lounge exactly at eight-thirty. Right on time, he said to himself as he look at his watch, the pouring rain exploding in large droplets of water as they hit the glass face. Despite his drenched frock overcoat and lack of an umbrella in the pouring rain, Jack didn’t go in, at least not right away. Instead he stood outside the double-glass doors looking up at the neon sign on the front of the building and then inside. He struggled to see anybody, or anything for that matter. Even though he could see silhouetted forms moving around, that was all he could see, other than the large orange glowing lights that hung from the ceiling at varying heights, meant to mimic stars, he surmised. But to Jack they looked like meteors, and from the outside, the orange glowing light danced and sparkled as the heavy rain droplets splattered against the window.

Again, Jack tilted his head and look up at the neon sign.

“Would you like to go inside?” The voice of the concierge asked, reaching for the handle of the front door.

Without answering Jack nodded his head yes.

Once inside Jack was meant with the thundering sound of laughter and loud music that almost completely masked the yelling voices of the patrons.

“Party of one, or are you meeting someone?” The hostess asked, smiling, although Jack could barely understand what she said.

Meeting Jack Lungardd, he wrote down on a napkin and handed it to her.

The smile quickly disappearing from the hostesses face as she pointed to the far corner of the lounge where the obscured form of a man sitting cross legged in a booth could be seen. He his face was completely in shadow, but the glowing ember of the cigarette he was smoking and the occasional reflection of his glasses told Jack that that was the man he was looking for.

Jack thought to ask how she knew the Lungardd, but then thought against it, settling for his belief that anybody who knew or had even met Lungardd remembered his tempter more than his chiseled looks and mesmerizing stare.

Jack was Lungardd’s younger brother. Although the the two of them were only separated by less then a year. The younger Jack was given up for adoption and given the name Jack, ironically the same name as his older brother. Although he would not come to know that fact until just last year when the elder Jack showed up on the younger Jack’s doorstep and introduced himself as his brother.

One thing that I loved about Michael Connelly‘s first book, The Black Echo was not just the writing and the story, the feeling that I was reading a classic detective story where the only thing that was going to solve this case was good old police work, not just phone calls and computer research.

While Connelly didn’t disappoint in The Black Ice, one thing that was a turn off for me were all the characters and keeping track of how they fit into the plot. But really, this was only a minor issue as the story did keep my turning page after page.

The story begins with the discovery of a Detective Moore‘s body, who has been missing for almost a week and presumed dead. Hearing the call come in over his police scanner, Detective Bosch wonders why he hasn’t been called to the scene? It is his night to work after all. Taking matters into his own hands Bosch heads to the crime scene where he is told by his captain that this isn’t his case and all indications are that it was a suicide anyway. But being the type of detective that Bosch is, he can’t simply leave it alone.

The next day Bosch is given the case load of a detective that has quite the force citing physiological distress. Stating that this is the end of the year, Bosch‘s captain tells him that he would like at least one of these murders solved by the end of the year (a week away) to come out ahead on crimes solved for the year. Bosch reluctantly agrees knowing that this is nothing more than an attempt by his captain to keep him away from the Moore case.

Upon reading over the case load and deciding on two cases that he feels will be his best chances, Bosch is delighted to discover that one Juan Doe murder victim was discovered by the late Detective Moore while another was actively being investigated by him.

Realizing that these two cases are more than likely drug related, Bosch follows the evidence which eventually leads him to Mexico and down a path that gets stranger and stranger.

With a craftsman such as Michael Connelly behind the type writer you can expect that there will be twist and turns, and in this story, there certainly were, not to mention a surprise ending, which at first I didn’t like because it wasn’t obvious that it was coming. But upon thinking back and with my continued reading, I came to understand that all the clues were there, for me the reader, to put together and come to the same conclusion that Bosch did in the book. This cemented in my mind that Michael Connelly is a master story-teller of the highest caliber.

Rating (out of 5):

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