SAFEKEEPING by Jessamyn Hope Reviewed

Safekeeping Jessamyn Hope June 9th, 2015 Fig Tree Books   Safekeeping is a novel about personal tragedy, hope, and suffering within the backdrop of history.  A medieval brooch is the connection of time and history.  Although it flashbacks to Jewish history from the German Pogroms to the Holocaust and the founding of Israel, its main focus is the year 1994 in an Israeli Kibbutz where six people meet.  These six are connected through a search for their identities, looking to escape their own personal crisis. The main focus of the book is the theme of how someone perseveres after a tragedy.  This is done through the backdrop of the Holocaust.  As Hope stated, “People walked out of the death camps stripped of everything and everyone they had ever loved. They had all the reason in the world to give up on existence, to give up on humanity, but somehow found the hope and strength to start again, to fight for their own country.” The reason the title Safekeeping, according to the author, “We are living in a time where individuals need to speak up.  On some level there is a competition between looking out for yourself and taking a responsibility for the larger community.  I called the book Safekeeping for a reason.  Israel is supposed to be a place where everyone can be kept safe.  Sadly project forward to today where there is still a search for safekeeping, especially as the world turns its back on Israel.  Safekeeping is less and less guaranteed.” By having a contrast of characters the author shows the reaction of individuals versus the responsibility of a community.  Set in 1994 on a Kibbutz the story traces how the six characters search for what is important.  Among the characters are Ziva, a Zionistic socialist; Franz, a Holocaust survivor; Ulya, a Soviet émigré; Adam, Franz’s grandson who has become an addict; and Claudette, someone trying to overcome OCD. Franz is an individualist who lives day to day, while Ziva, a Kibbutzim pioneer, has a higher ideal, with a strength and energy to start up a new country. An important scene in the book contrasts these two when Ziva wants Franz to change his name to a Hebrew one. A powerful quote reflects this, “All I’m saying is that the Nazis tried their damnedest to do away with Franz, and if it’s quite all right with you, I’d prefer to not lend them a helping hand.” Hope noted, “In building Israel Jews were asked on some level to reinvent themselves.  Franz had no Hebrew identity and wanted to hold on to his old identity, while Ziva, by extension, Israel, is asking him to give it up.  She represented those who founded Israel by turning away from their past, reinventing themselves.” The other characters, although not as much as a sharp contrast are Ziva and Ulya. Both are ambitious; yet use it for different reasons.  Ziva has certain goals, the cause of establishing the State of Israel, while Ulya is out for herself. The author explained, “I wrote the Russian immigrant character and Ziva as Scarlett O’Hara types.  I was inspired by Scarlett and fascinated by Gone With The Wind. I wanted to write that type of character.  All are not morally admirable, extremely ambitious, yet you can’t help but be inspired by their grit and determination. They use any tool to survive.” The brooch also symbolizes history with the fears and desires getting passed down. These brooch stories show how events from the past, some of which are unknown, affect, how someone turns out. The brooch chapters were a way to show readers that they are influenced by what happened to their family through past generations. Every single character in the book has a personal challenge, usually that was inherited. Safekeeping has a very riveting story that includes romance, betrayal, and tragedy.  Anyone that has tried to...

Film Review: ANOMALISA Jan29

Film Review: ANOMALISA

Directed by Charlie Kaufman and Duke Johnson Written by Charlie Kaufman Featuring the voices of Tom Noonan, Jennifer Jason Leigh and David Thewlis Anomalisa, Kaufman’s stop-motion animation feature is set in a number of numbing settings (taxi, airport, hotel, restaurant, sex toy shop) that contribute to the loneliness (perhaps self-induced) that is its middle-aged male protagonist’s condition. Other people have no affect for or on him, and in fact, speak with the same voice, share a similar face.  Only Lisa, soon named Anomalisa, (Leigh) has a different voice and makes some inroads in permeating his walled-off state. This would make it seem like a movie about a man I should feel very sorry for. Because surely he is enduring a deep depression. Instead though, I watched a man (very successful in business) who is too narcissistic, even cruel, for me to pity. This may be only my interpretation. Perhaps you would take pity on him and interpret his actions as born of mental illness or psychic distress. Any detailed look at what I find him guilty of would serve as spoilers. Recommended for its ambiguity mostly. Patti Abbott In addition to being the Crimespree Senior Film Critic, Patti has penned numerous short stories and her debut novel, CONCRETE ANGEL, is in stores now. She hosts a look at Forgotten Books every Friday with readers, writers and reviewers at pattinase.blogspot.com. She hopes you’ll join...

William Shaw’s A SONG FOR THE BROKENHEARTED is featured in this week’s Giveaway Jan29

William Shaw’s A SONG FOR THE BROKENHEARTED is featured in this week’s Giveaway...

This week, Crimespree magazine, in conjunction with Friday Reads Facebook page, is offering you a chance to win a copy of A SONG FOR THE BROKENHEARTED by William Shaw   A SONG FOR THE BROKENHEARTED The earthshaking decade of the 1960s comes to a sweeping and dangerous close, as William Shaw’s detective duo battle the most powerful members of London society. After being wounded in the line of duty, Detective Sergeant Breen recuperates on the family farm of his former partner, Helen Tozer. To fill the long and empty hours, he reviews the open case file for a murder that has haunted Helen for years: that of her younger sister. Breen discovers that the teenage victim had been having a secret affair with James Fletchet, the son of an affluent local landowner, celebrated for his service in Kenya during the Mau Mau Uprising. Breen and Tozer return to London’s Criminal Investigation Division, where their questions about Fletchet’s past are met with resistance and suspicion. The deeper they probe, the more people they implicate in their investigation. New Scotland Yard doesn’t look kindly upon breaking rank, and it’s only a matter of time before Breen and Tozer make themselves a target. Shaw’s stirring, heartfelt and diabolically plotted mystery series is everything a reader looks for: enveloping, invigorating, and wonderfully entertaining.   About The Author: William Shaw is the author of several non-fiction books including Westsiders: Stories of the Boys in the Hood, about a year spent with the young men of South Central Los Angeles, and A Superhero For Hire, a compilation of columns in the Observer Magazine. A Song from Dead Lips – published in the US as She’s Leaving Home – is his first fiction book. Starting out as assistant editor of the post-punk magazine ZigZag, he has been a journalist for The Observer, The New York Times, Wired, Arena and The Face and was Amazon UK Music Journalist of the Year in 2003. To be entered in the drawing shoot an email over to Jon?@crimespreemag.com (remove the question mark) And put CONTEST in the subject line. Also please put your address in the body of the email. We will pick the winners on February...

Alafair Burke: THE EX Interview

The plot of the ex has one of New York City’s best criminal defense lawyers, Olivia Randall, representing her ex- fiancé, Jack Harris. He has been arrested for a triple homicide that includes a victim connected to his wife’s murder three years earlier. Burke takes the reader on a journey with Randall as she goes from vehemently believing his innocence to questioning if he is indeed guilty. Part of the reason she agrees to represent Jack is to absolve herself of the guilt, feeling somewhat responsible for his state of mind. Her past regrets are based on the way she chose to end the relationship twenty years ago when she broke his heart in an unimaginable way. Elise Cooper: Does your professional background help in writing these stories? Alafair Burke: As a former prosecutor and now a professor of criminal law and procedure I wanted to show how the law allows them to do certain things to get a conviction, but prosecutors also have a lot of responsibility. I did not set out to write the book and make the point that the legal system favors the prosecution. I think prosecutors do have a lot of power in the legal justice system. Olivia certainly felt she did not have a level playing field. Hopefully readers see that the ADA Scott Temple is a good guy and just played the cards he had. EC: What did you want to explore with the Jack and Olivia relationship? AB: People who were in your past life, did you ever wonder about them? How did someone in Olivia’s former life turn out? She was never able to close the book with Jack. Then he suddenly appears in her life in a very shocking way. She remembers the relationship in a certain way, making herself to be the bad person. Feeling guilty about the way she ended it her memories are that she was bad and he was good. But as the book progresses you see not everything is black and white. EC: How would you define Jack? AB: Gullible and naïve, someone who gets under Olivia’s skin. He was a preppy nerd that Olivia initially took for granted. Because he was dealt some hard blows she ended up in a relationship with him, which started as a friendship. I can understand why Olivia did not want to be with him. Jack would not be my kind of guy. EC: You explore how technology is used for social interaction. Correct? AB: Yes. “The Room” is based on the “gothamist” website that is New York centrist. I also explore “Catfishing” where someone pretends to be a certain person. My friend is single and does online dating. Someone sent him a message and asked him if he was the person she was conversing with online, because she wanted to meet him in person. She thinks it was my friend because she Googled the image sent to her. Some guy had basically used my friend’s picture to give himself a different identity. The prosecutor in me was worried about the anonymity of the Internet. I told my friend to be very careful, trust but verify times ten. EC: It was interesting how you made Jack’s profession a writer. Did you do it so he had plausible explanations? AB: When I have to choose a profession of a character I have to be aware of a reader’s pre-existing ideas of what they will be like. Something about certain jobs invokes a certain personality, such as a cop or accountant. By making Jack a writer there is a blank slate. People know his job is to make things up so they might wonder did he weave this whole story in case he got caught. Remember every book he wrote is a fictional account of something in his life. EC: Can you give a heads up about your next book...

Q&A with Benjamin Black

EVEN THE DEAD is the seventh novel in Benjamin Black’s Quirke series, which features a pathologist in 1950s Dublin. Black is also the author of the Philip Marlowe novel THE BLACK-EYED BLONDE. Benjamin Black is the pen name of John Banville, who is the author of fifteen novels and the recipient of awards including the Man Booker Prize. 1. Why did you choose to write about 1950s Ireland? What freedoms does setting your crime novel in the past give you as a writer? The Dublin of the 1950s is the perfect setting for a noir novel. All that deprivation, alcohol, cigarette smoke; all those secret crimes and misdemeanours; all that guilt: what more could a mystery writer ask for? Of course, it was a challenge to try to recreate what is, after all, a vanished world, but it was a joy, as well, to trawl through my memories of those far-off days and see what I would come up with—a great deal, as it turned out, somewhat to my surprise. 2. Quirke is a pathologist with a penchant for playing detective. Why did you give him this particular day job? I didn’t want to have a detective as my protagonist. Also, I liked the idea of a man who works ‘down among the dead men’, a sort of lost soul striving to rise up into the light but always failing. Although his new lady-love, the redoubtable Dr Evelyn Blake, may succeed in rescuing him from the underworld. 3. In your crime fiction you explore the corruption of the state, specifically the notorious mother and baby homes and Irish babies being sent to America for adoption. Why did you choose to delve into this dark side of politics? Well, it’s just material. I should like to be able to say that I had a crusading social purpose when I set out in the first book, Christine Falls, but the truth is I just wanted to write a novel, and the scandals that had just begun to be revealed at that time seemed ideal for my purpose, as they have continued to be. 4. Quirke’s daughter, Phoebe, is a fiercely independent character who becomes her father’s sidekick in solving the crime. Quirke seems at once in admiration of her independence and wary of it. Why did you make this such an uneasy father/daughter relationship? And what do you think it adds to your crime novel? I’m fascinated by Phoebe—sometimes I think she is the most interesting character in these books. My agent suggests I’m in love with her, but I think that she is me, in some way that I can’t explain. I admire her spirit and her integrity, and I find the relation between father and daughter and daughter and father very interesting and stimulating. I also wanted to portray that rarest of things, an independent-minded young woman in 1950s Ireland. 5. Who are the crime writers you particularly admire? Georges Simenon above all; Raymond Chandler; James M. Cain; the great Richard Stark; Patricia Highsmith. I don’t any longer read the women writers of earlier years, such as Margery Allingham and Ngaio Marsh, but I really should return to them, as I suspect I would find neglected treasures there. 6. Why did you choose to write under a pseudonym? There are quite a lot of literary writers who have switched to crime who use a pseudonym. Why do you think that might be? Well, I can’t speak for others. For myself, I decided to use a pen-name simply to let my Banville readers understand that this was not a postmodernist literary trick I was playing, and that the Quirke novels are what they say they are: crime fiction. 7. Your Quirke novels have been adapted by the BBC for TV. What was your experience of seeing your characters come quite literally to life? I love cinema and television drama—when it’s good—so...

WHERE IT HURTS by Reed Coleman Reviewed

Where It Hurts Reed Coleman G.P. Putnam Jan. 26th, 2016 Where It Hurts is the first book of a new series written by Reed Coleman, the contracted writer of the Robert B. Parker’s Jesse Stone books. He introduces the character, Gus Murphy, who becomes a grieving father after unexpectedly losing his son, while at the same time attempting to solve a murder mystery. The plot goes into great detail about how Gus’ world changes on the day his son dies from an unknown heart defect. He is a broken and wounded man, losing everything he loved in his life: his son dying, his wife having an affair with his partner, his job, while his daughter is arrested for a DUI and drugs. Ironically he is brought back to life after being approached by a small time criminal, Tommy Delcamino, who also lost a son without any warning. While Gus lost his son to a disease Tommy’s son is murdered. As Gus reluctantly agrees to pursue an investigation, he uncovers a major conspiracy to thwart the investigation. Plugging away to find the truth allows Gus to come out of his grieving world. Coleman takes the readers on a journey with Gus as he attempts to find the murderers as well as recover from his walking trance and bitterness. The most powerful theme in the book is how someone reacts to losing a loved one. Being a policeman forced Gus for over twenty years to have a distant view of life and death until it became very personal for him. Through Coleman’s descriptions and relatable dialogue, Readers will understand Gus’ pain and the nightmare he must face each and every day. It becomes obvious that grief is a very personal issue, as the author shows how someone encompassed with their own sorrow never realizes how others have also been affected. Gus and his family are consumed by their own anguish and in doing so have completely lost perspective of each other. Coleman commented, “I wanted readers to understand how hard it is to put the emotional pain behind you, which is why I put the quote in the book, ‘To heal I suppose there has to be forgetting. There’s no healing if the scab is always peeled away.’ Gus is not sure who he is or where he is going. He knows what he no longer believes, but does not know what he actually believes anymore. I know one of the biggest clichés is ‘time heals all wounds.’ Gus will always remember, but eventually it will not be at the forefront of his thinking. It will not be as constant and painful. The character’s emotions are a reflection of my own as I tried to put myself in their situation. I hope those who had tragedy in their life contact me, and let me know their reaction.” The author gave a heads up about his next books. Out in the fall will be another Jesse Stone book, entitled, Debt To Pay. Coleman said readers should expect changes in the Spenser and Stone universe after his ex-wife Jen and someone else from Jesse’s past reappears. Also preeminently featured will be former FBI Agent Diana Evens, first introduced in the book Blind Spot. Then a year from now, the next Gus Murphy book will be published, a continuation of his journey. The plot includes the exploration of good versus evil: what would happen if you really love somebody and find out they have done some horrible things? Regardless of which series he is writing, Coleman always has characters with flaws that eventually the reader will root for. Where It Hurts main focus is how a person handles grief within a mystery of police corruption, drug lords, and murder.   Elise...

Peter James awarded the CWA Diamond Dagger Jan23

Peter James awarded the CWA Diamond Dagger

Crime Writers’ Association has announced that the Diamond Dagger will be bestowed upon Peter James. While James is best known for his DSI Roy Grace novels, he has published 31 novels overall (12 of which feature DSI Grace). The CWA Diamond Dagger is awarded each year to a writer who has a career marked by sustained excellence. Past winners have included literary giants such as Lee Child, Frederick Forsyth, P.D. James,  Val McDermid and Elmore Leonard. Part of the CWA Dagger Awards, the CWA Diamond Dagger is the most prestigious prize the Association can bestow. “I’ve always felt that the CWA Diamond Dagger stands head and shoulders above all the myriad awards in the world for crime and thriller writing,” says Peter James. “It is, without doubt, the most coveted of all, partly because of its history, partly because of who actually decides it, but more important than either of these, is the list of past winners – a veritable roll call of the giants of our genre. I remember attending the ceremonies in my earliest days as young, struggling writer, watching the annual presentations, listening to the acceptance speeches, and dreaming that one that this could be me – which I always dismissed as no more than fantasy. Now to find that I am actually to be this year’s recipient is, without doubt, one of the greatest moments of my career. And it is proof that sometimes, our dreams really can come...

13 HOURS Reviewed

13 Hours Book Author: Mitch Zuckoff Studio: Paramount, Publisher: Hachette Books Movie Date released: January 15th 2016 13 Hours is a riveting movie and book. What makes it special is the discussion by the six American heroes about the terrorist attack on September 11th, 2012. As with most incidents the names are forgotten, but with these accounts people are able to put a humanistic touch on the terrorist attack of Americans. Viewers and readers feel a part of the action, fighting alongside these operators who laid their lives on the line for one another, and for their country. As one of the men described, “Benghazi is essentially a 21st Century Alamo.” This is the story of an Islamic terrorist attack on the US State Department Special Mission Compound and a nearby CIA station called the Annex in Benghazi, Libya on September 11th, 2012. Four Americans were killed: U.S. ambassador J. Christopher Stevens, Sean Smith, Glen “Bub” Doherty, and Tyrone “Rone” Woods. The five operators who provided the account were John “Tig” Tiegen, Kris “Tanto” Paronto, Mark “Oz” Geist, and two others who are known by the pseudonyms Dave “D.B” Benton and Jack Silva. Both the book and the movie tell the story of true heroism in the face of unbeatable odds. Even knowing how it ends, people find themselves rooting for the heroes and holding out hope they all survive. The account seems incredible and reads like a Nelson DeMille or Vince Flynn novel with good guys, bad guys, incompetent guys, sleazy government officials, and action packed scenarios. Mitch Zuckoff, the author, describes the men as “John Wayne heroes. They did not seek aggrandizement or medals and threw themselves in harms way in order to save American lives. I hoped to show that this is a historical record of what happened, what they did, and what they saw during the Battle of Benghazi. After speaking with them I realized what genuine decent guys they are. I felt it was part of my responsibility to write this book.” The book and film are extremely informative and people will learn the truth about certain facts surrounding Benghazi. Questions were answered either subtly or directly regarding the attacks being pre-mediated versus spontaneous, if those in charge were unprepared, was a “stand down order” given, and what happened with reinforcements. A powerful quote emphasized “the abundance of weapons, the absence of a working Libyan government, and the lingering anti-Western sentiments” in addition of the Ambassador’s constant request for additional security. Zuckoff commented, “There were a combination of motivations. Yes, they were highly paid but faced constant danger in their daily lives. Because the current military does not have enough personnel for all the missions around the world contractors needed to be hired. But these men were retired Special Forces/Marines so they had the experience. They repeatedly felt that this attack could have happened at any time. Jack had talked about this at some length, explaining that they always had to be prepared and that their job was to protect American lives.” To offer readers some context Zuckoff began the book with a history of Libya that included a terrorist attack of the Benghazi American outpost in 1967. He noted, “I put that in so people will get a sense that history repeats itself. If you do not recognize history you are doomed to repeat it. I wanted to show people the world of these men.” The heroes and the author hope after reading the book and seeing the movie Americans will understand “it is about what happened in Benghazi where American lives were saved, lost, and changed, as bullets flew, buildings burned, and mortars fired.” People should read the book and see the movie because they will experience as the heroes did the intense, shocking, and horrific 13 Hours, and will be moved emotionally.   Elise...