CrimeReads: 10 New Books Coming Out This Week ‹ CrimeReads. https://crimereads.com/10-new-books-coming-out-this-week-january-3-2022-2/
Who is Dr. Kevin Schewe and why is he winning all these awards?
Shelf Life is lucky to have Guest Blogger Kathy Tretter, co-publisher and editor of the Ferdinand News and Spencer County Leader, two award winning newspapers in Southern Indiana, to answer that question. The following is from her column which ran in the Ferdinand News.
Kevin L. Schewe, MD, FACRO, is the brilliant, rather dignified (but not stuffy) board-certified radiation oncologist serving Southern Indiana at Memorial Hospital and Health Care’s Lange-Fuhs Cancer Center in Jasper. For 35 years his work and focus revolved around saving the lives of cancer patients.
You can and should, of course, call him Dr. Schewe (rhymes with “chewy”), but for those who knew him when, his moniker is a tad less, ah, shall we say reverential?
“If history was taught this way in school, everyone would be a scholar and educating ourselves not only about our accomplishments but the horrors of the past that should awaken and give insight to the path of a better future. A rare gem!”
—David Holladay, MD, 5-Star
His wife Nikki, a radiation therapist, probably calls him Kevin, but his old friends know him as Bubble Butt!
Dr. Schewe discovered, rather late in life, that he possesses both a passion and a talent totally unrelated to the medical profession — and that talent is, quite literally, winning him accolades across the globe.
At last count he has been honored with over one-hundred international awards for his screenplay, Bad Love Tigers (he’s over 200 honors thus far) — not to mention raves for the four books he wrote on which the screenplay is based. Some of his awards include Best Original Story at the Cannes World Film Festival, Best Sci-Fi/Fantasy Screenplay at the Vegas Movie Awards, Best Screenplay at the London Classic Film Festival and Honorable Mention at the Los Angeles Movie Awards. Most recently he earned the Best Screenplay Award at the East Coast Movie Awards.
A partial list of his wins appears at the end of this article and the scope is quite simply astonishing.
According to his publicist, “In less than six months on the international screenplay circuit, Kevin Schewe’s Bad Love Tigers generated momentum on its whirlwind sweep of the globe, finding acclaim at film festivals spanning from Los Angeles to Hong Kong and dozens of locations in between.” That quote came at the end of June after the screenplay had amassed, by that point, 83 awards, and the list continued to grow from there.
So how did this all transpire? It’s not every day someone wholly ensconced in a profession as intense as medicine suddenly clicks on his brain’s right hemisphere (creative side) to become a novelist and screenwriter, although the left (logical) side is responsible for language and probably had something to do with both his careers.
Here’s what happened.
Dr. Schewe is a history buff and reads everything he can get his hands on concerning World War II. He came across a true military history story that happened on a late afternoon in November of 1944, as the war in the European Theater was starting to wane. A brand new B-17G Flying Fortress (four-engined heavy bomber with a 104 foot wing span), known as the Phantom Fortress, landed at a British air base in Belgium. These bombers were a proud symbol of American air strength during World War II and there were several iterations, the B-17G being the last.
As this colossus was coming toward the landing strip with no warning, the tower kept trying to radio the pilot, to no avail.
The landing had not been perfect. There was some damage to one engine when the bomber end-rolled in, touched down, spun around, dipped, and hit the runway, but it landed and came to a halt, the remaining three engines still turning.
Gunnery crews on the ground were scratching their heads trying to figure out what was going on. Was everyone inside dead? But then how did the bomber land? Was this a proverbial Trojan Horse, a trick of the Nazis?
Apparently British Lieutenant John Crisp drew the short straw and went out to the plane to investigate about half an hour later when no one disembarked.
What he found was surreal. No one was in the cockpit or anywhere else in the bomber. Parachutes were lined up along the fuselage, while a leather flight jacket and candy bars littered the floor.
As could be expected, an investigation ensued. The man who was supposed to be piloting the B-17G (on only its third mission) was later located and said he and the crew had been en route to bomb the Leuna Synthetic Oil Refinery — Nazi Germany’s second largest synthetic oil plant and second biggest chemical operation — when an engine failed. The B-17 was losing altitude and destined to crash, so the crew abandoned the mission and bailed out in the clouds.
But it didn’t crash — it landed on Allied soil and only one engine — the one damaged on landing — had failed.
Which, Dr. Kevin “Bubble Butt” Schewe realized made absolutely no sense. Why would the crew not have used parachutes and why would anyone depart without his jacket as the air outside would have been frigid? The only engine that failed was the one damaged during touchdown in Belgium.
Please note, B-17Gs were not drones, nor were they equipped to land themselves, so those facts alone would seemingly constitute a miracle.
This is where the whole right brain/left brain scenario comes in — this true tale lit an imaginative spark in Dr. Schewe. His mind then took a slight right to his undergrad roots as a physics major. “When I read this story it was like I was struck by lightening,” he recalls. He sat down and began penning the first novel, developing the characters based on his childhood friends with a couple of fictional personages added for good measure.
What resulted is a superlative blending of fact and fiction, and it’s highly tempting to give everything away.
But here’s a taste.
Dr. Schewe grew up in St. Louis (his Dad served under General MacArthur in World War II) and his friends did indeed (and still do) call him Bubble Butt. Many of those friends appear in the books and script — their nicknames intact as well. The protagonist is Bubble Butt, but with a different surname. The action happens in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, which everyone who has read even a little bit of history knows was the epicenter for the Manhattan Project leading to the development of the atomic bomb.
The fiction is fascinating and partially based in reality, such as the discovery of exotic matter (a focus of Einstein’s Theory of Relativity), also a necessary component of time travel (oops, getting close to spilling the beans).
The year is 1974 and Bubble Butt and friends accidentally come across a secret, cavernous vault known during WWII as the White Hole Project near the Oak Ridge complex. This dynamic group of young adventurers, known as the Bad Love Gang, use a time machine to travel back to the World War II era.
So there, you got it out of me.
One feature of the first book, Bad Love Strikes, will surely provide the soundtrack for the movie (if it gets made and surely it will). On the first pages Dr. Schewe gives a list of songs to play while reading every chapter, from “Born To Be Wild” in chapter one to “Shambala” in chapter 20. Each chapter also begins with a quote such as “Put your hand on a hot stove for one minute, and it seems like an hour. Sit with a pretty girl for an hour, and it seems like a minute. That’s relativity.” — Albert Einstein. Or the one prior to the epilogue, “OK, I will admit that I am having some memory issues. I can do pretty good with the past, it’s the future I’m having trouble remembering …” — Larry W. Schewe, father of the author when his memory was beginning to fail.
According to his publicist, “Schewe’s Bad Love Tigers is a feel-good, action-adventure, sci-fi blend of Stand by Me meets Raiders of the Lost Ark or Back to the Future meets Goonies. The energetic and fun screenplay has strong appeal and great potential to attract an audience of all ages to the big screen. This incredible display of worldwide interest shows that Bad Love Tigers is already a global phenomenon, crossing cultures and borders and demonstrating its potential to be a feel-great-again, big-screen blockbuster.”
Which is why it has garnered so many awards.
So who exactly is Kevin Schewe, physician author and screenwriter, and where did he come from?
He moved to Jasper after the clinic at which he had worked in Colorado changed hands. He was extremely attracted to the radiology equipment at Memorial, noting some very generous donors made the Cancer Clinic at the Jasper-based hospital top of the line. The fact the move would allow for more time to write also appealed as Bubble Butt has plotted eight more books in the series.
“I plan to be here for the next seven years [until retirement],” he notes. Then with a cheeky smile adds, “Unless Stephen Spielberg calls.”
The 72 National and International Awards won (so far) by Bad Love Tigers (a partial list out of more than 200)
· Best Screenplay, Eastern Europe International Movie Awards (Izmir, Turkey)
· Best Original Story, Cannes World Film Festival (Cannes, France)
· Best Feature Screenplay, HALO International Film Festival (St. Petersburg, Russia)
· Best Feature Script and Best Action Screenplay, Top Film Awards Film Festival
· Best Feature Screenplay, Golden Nugget International Film Festival (London, UK)
· Best Screenplay, 52 Weeks Film Festival (Thousand Oaks, CA)
·Best Original Story, Cannes World Film Festival (Cannes, France) Vegas Movie Awards (Las Vegas, NV)
· Best Screenplay, Indo-Global 2022 Film Festival (Mumbai, India)
· Best Sci-Fi Screenplay, Masters of Cinema International Film Festival (Rome, Italy)
· Best Sci-Fi Screenplay, Stardust Films and Screenplays Festival (New York, NY)
· Best Feature Screenwriting, Red Moon Film Festival (New York, NY)
· Outstanding Achievement, Swedish International Film Festival (Arkiva, Sweden)
· Best Script Award for Best Sci-Fi Screenplay, London Film Festival (London, UK)
· Best Screenplay, The Gladiator Film Festival (Istanbul, Turkey)
· Best Screenplay, Inca Imperial International Film Festival (Lima, Peru)
· Best Unproduced Script, Indiefare International Film Festival
· Best Sci-Fi Script, Hong Kong World Film Festival (Hong Kong)
· Honorable Mention, Los Angeles Movie Awards (Los Angeles, CA)
· Best Feature Script, New York Neorealism Film Awards (Rome, Italy)
· Best Screenplay, London Classic Film Festival (London, UK)
· Best Sci-Fi Screenplay, Stardust Films and Screenplays Festival , Best Original Screenplay, and Best Poster, Golden Giraffe International Film Festival (Nice, France)
· Best Sci-Fi Short Script, Red Dragon Creative Awards (Dallas, Texas)
· Best Short Screenplay, Silver Mask Live Festival (Los Angeles, California)
· Best Script Written During Pandemic, Redwood Shorts & Scripts (Sunnyvale, California)
· Critic’s Choice Award for Best Feature Script/Screenplay, International Motion Picture Festival of India (Pondicherry, India)
· Best Sci-Fi Script, Mykonos International Film Festival (Mykonos, Greece)
· Best Sci-Fi Screenplay, Thinking Hat Fiction Challenge (Punjab, India)
· Outstanding Achievement for Feature Script, Luis Bunuel Memorial Awards (Kolkata, India)
· Best Feature Screenplay, South Film and Arts Academy Festival (Rancagua, Chile)
· Best Sci-Fi Script, Gold Star Movie Awards (Newark, New Jersey)
· Best Sci-Fi Screenplay Award, BRNO Film Festival (Brno, Czech Republic)
· Best Feature Screenplay, Filmmaker Life Awards (Hollywood, CA)
· Best Story Screenplay Award, The Madrid Art Film Festival (Madrid, Spain)
· Best Feature Screenplay, White Unicorn International Film Festival (Hong Kong, India, Japan)
· Feature Script Audience Choice Award, Black Swan International Film Festival (Kolkata, India)
· Best Feature Script/Screenplay, Indo French International Film Festival (Pondicherry, India)
· Best Script, New York Independent Cinema Awards (New York, NY)
· Best Script in a Feature Film, World Indie Film Awards (Chongqing, China)
· Best Script (Sci-Fi), Los Angeles Film & Script Festival (Los Angeles, CA)
· Best Screenplay for Young Adults, Bridge Fest Film Festival (Vancouver, Canada)
· Best Thriller Screenplay, Adbhooture Film Festival (West Bengal, India)
· Feature Script Outstanding Achievement Award, Royal Society of Television and Motion Picture (Kolkata, India)
About Kathy Tretter
Kathy Tretter with Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb .
Active in her community, Kathy Tretter is President, Editor/Co-publisher at Dubois-Spencer Counties Publishing Co., Inc., is former Chair of the Spencer County Chamber of Commerce, past president of the Hoosier State Press Association and remains on their board. An award winning editor, Tretter was the winner of the 2014 Rotary Club of Jasper’s ATHENA International Leadership award. The ATHENA Award, an international honor, recognizes women who have demonstrated excellence in professional leadership, community service, and the mentorship of future women leaders and also have been active in community service and show professional excellence.
Tretter is also the editor of Santa’s Daughter, the autobiography of Patricia Yellig Koch, who an nductee into the International Santa Claus Hall of Fame and founder of the Santa Claus Museum. The museum’s mission is to preserve the history of the community of Santa Claus and the attractions that helped build “America’s Christmas Hometown.”
The Best Noir Fiction of 2022 https://flip.it/fcHesx
Didn’t get a ticket for Taylor Swift’s upcoming tour? Don’t despair. Think of all the money you saved when jamming out instead to Midnights along with a good book instead. The librarians at Libby, an app for borrowing ebooks, audiobooks, magazines, and more that let’s you borrow from your local library for free, went track by track to come up with pairings to go along with the new album, check out that list here.
The best part? Unlike a $700+ floor seat and hours of Ticketmaster torture, these books are free. So instead of a credit card, just whip out your library card.
Midnights Book/Song Pairings
♫ Lavender Haze
📚 It Happened One Summer by Tessa Bailey
Piper Bellinger is an Instagram wild child with a trust fund and a penchant for riling up the paparazzi. A lot of people make assumptions about her, including Brendan—at first. Both characters show that there’s more than meets the eye and they don’t give a darn what people think if they’re meant to be together.
📚 The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid
No spoilers here but IYKYK—this song fits the bill.
📚 New Moon by Stephenie Meyer
Jokes about Jacob Black and Renesmee aside, this song captures the vibe of the franchise and the era of the books and movies so well. Whether it evokes Bella’s four-month depression (Hello, One day I’ll watch as you’re leaving / And life will lose all its meaning), Edward feeling like “a monster on the hill” and a danger to his love, or truly the “covert narcissism” disguised “as altruism” from just about every Cullen, this song has the Twilight franchise covered.
♫ Snow on the Beach
📚 The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V.E. Schwab
Addie makes a deal with the devil and lives forever, but is forgotten by everyone she meets. That’s until she meets a man who remembers her name. A lot of her life and loves feel like snow on the beach: weird but beautiful and, often, impossible.
♫ You’re On Your Own, Kid
📚 I’m Glad My Mom Died by Jennette McCurdy
With lyrics like, I didn’t choose this town, I dream of getting out and I hosted parties and starved my body / Like I’d be saved by a perfect kiss down to the repetition of You’re on your own, kid, you always have been, this song evokes so many of the feelings Jennette describes throughout her book: navigating life with her mother, being forced into Hollywood and just doing her best to survive.
♫ Midnight Rain
📚 The 99 Boyfriends of Micah Summers by Adam Sass
Micah is the “Prince of Chicago.” He runs a popular (anonymous) Instagram filled with drawings of his numerous, imaginary boyfriends. He’s got it all, but knows he’s so much more than that. When Boy 100 turns into his very first boyfriend, he finds that love is so much more than what’s been living in his head. He has to fight the hurt as he tries to make his own name while Boy 100 is chasing the fame.
📚 Along for the Ride by Sarah Dessen
Auden spends a lot of nights reading or walking around town—basically doing anything but sleep. She runs into a fellow night owl, Eli, and they form a friendship as they both try to work through their stuff. These lyrics match perfectly:
Good girl, sad boy, big city, wrong choices. We had one thing goin’ on I swear that it was somethin’ / ‘Cause I don’t remember who I was before you painted all my nights / A color I’ve searched for since.
♫ Vigilante Sh*t
📚 Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins
There are so many strong, powerful and amazing women in literature who could absolutely “draw the cat eye, sharp enough to kill a man,” but from the jump, this song evokes thoughts of sticking it to The Capitol. Whether dressing for revenge, or taking down the corrupt system from the inside, Katniss Everdeen and her crew are up to some vigilante sh*t.
📚 Daisy Jones and the Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid
Daisy has a way of capturing the attention of everyone in the room when she walks in. She shimmers and shines, but there’s more to her than meets the eye.
📚 Isla and the Happily Ever After by Stephanie Perkins
Isla is a hopeless romantic who might finally have a chance with Josh, a guy she’s had a crush on forever. But they have a lot of obstacles to overcome in this sweet and intense romance.
I’ll be gettin’ over you my whole life.
📚 It Starts with Us by Colleen Hoover
We could totally imagine “Karma” as Lily’s anthem as she navigates the tricky dynamics of her ex, Ryle, and the feelings she has for Atlas as they meet again as adults. Lily deserves her second chance at love despite the others that keep trying to bring her down.
♫ Sweet Nothing
📚 Beach Read by Emily Henry
Beach Read follows January, a romance author who doesn’t believe in love anymore, and Augustus, a literary author who’s a bit of a cynic. A romance, yes, but you’ll need the tissues ready!
All that you ever wanted from me was sweet nothin’.
📚 Before the Devil Breaks You, Diviners Series Book 3 by Libba Bray
This is such a magical and spooky series by Bray, filled with love and mysterious powers. There are so many moments in this book that feel like they only happen when all the stars aligned, and the love story of Theta and Memphis is surely one of them. From their chance meeting during the raid of the Hotsy Totsy club in Book 1, to discovering Theta’s past in Book 3, this pair absolutely embodies “the first night that you saw me nothing was gonna stop me.”
After you soak in the new album, head over to the Libby reading app to find the perfect book match.
About the Author
Joe Skelley has always been a lover of reading and passionate about the library. His love of libraries brought him to OverDrive where he works on the Events team, working with the Digital Bookmobile and co-hosts the Professional Book Nerds podcast. Joe loves thrillers, magical realism and the broad spectrum of YA. When he’s not working, Joe loves to listen to audiobooks and podcasts, watch YouTube, get too involved in a DIY project and (most importantly) play with his Boston Terrier, Roscoe.
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When Callie Padget is laid off from her reporting job, she returns to her hometown of Cattail Island and lands a gig at the local bookstore—the same one where she found comfort after her mother died.
In fact, the anniversary of her mother’s infamous death is approaching. Years ago, Teri Padget tumbled from the top of the lighthouse. As islanders are once again gossiping about the tragedy, devastating news strikes: the lighthouse has claimed another victim. Eva Meeks, of Meeks Hardware.
The police are calling it suicide, but Callie does not believe Eva jumped any more than she believes her mother did—especially because Callie knows that before her death, Eva had dug up a long-forgotten treasure hunt that could have put a target on Eva’s back.
In Callie’s search for answers, she enlists the help of some beloved books and several new friends, including the handsome local martial art’s instructor, Toby Dodge. But when another death rocks Cattail Island, Callie must face her fears alone. As she earns enemies in pursuit of the truth, Callie knows she will either uncover the killer or become a victim herself.
SMILE BEACH MURDER is an all-new mystery series featuring Callie Padget, a former reporter turned bookshop clerk in the Outer Banks, who is pulled into a deadly web of secrets when a mysterious fall at a lighthouse echoes a tragedy from her past. When the police rule the fall a suicide, Callie has doubts. As she earns enemies in pursuit of the truth, Callie knows she will either uncover the killer or become a victim herself.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Before authoring the Outer Banks Bookshop mystery series, Alicia Bessette worked as a reporter in her home state of Massachusetts, where her writing won a first-place award from the New England Newspaper & Press Association. A pianist, published poet, and enthusiastic birdwatcher, she now loves living in coastal North Carolina with her husband, novelist Matthew Quick.
Bessette has lived in the Outer Banks for years, adding authenticity to her depiction of island life, characters, and gorgeous setting. Jamie Brenner, bestselling author of The Forever Summer, praises: “What could be better than a beach-read mystery? Lay out a towel, pour yourself some lemonade, and escape in this Outer Banks whodunnit with charm to spare.”
“Noir land is always smoke and mirrors, and for those who like entering that world, be assured that Murphy is already at work on his next book.”
Anchored in life by little except a few friends, a love of books and cinema, and his nascent law practice—a downward slope from his previous position with a prestigious law firm—we never learn the name of the narrator in An Honest Living, Dwyer Murphy’s first novel. Even his clients seem unsure of who he is, and when one gives him a going away present with his name misspelled, our narrator can only ruefully observe “they were only off by a few letters.”
A guy like this makes a perfect patsy and that’s what happens when Anna Reddick hires him to determine if her husband is selling off her valuable collection of rare books. It seems easy enough. Staging a meeting with Reddick’s husband at the Poquelin Society which he describes as “a scholarly society dedicated to the art, science and preservation of the book, whatever that meant,” he quickly scores the proof he needs.
Case solved. Ha! As it could be that easy in a neo-noir novel set in a time and place where everyone seems to have a secret to hide and nothing is as it seems. And that applies also to the people the detective meets. It turns out the woman who hired our detective is not Anna Reddick.
Now, one of the noir fundamentals dictates that there’s a femme fatale, the kind of dame a hero shouldn’t fall for, but of course, always does. And that dame is the real Anna Reddick, a successful author and heir to old New York money. She hires and beguiles our detective to investigate the disappearance of her husband. Marital strife, a possible suicide or maybe murder, theft, and mystery—why wouldn’t you fall for a woman like that?
There are layers to this droll, atmospheric novel including the inside jokes the author wants us to get. If you’re wondering about the Poquelin Society, don’t bother trying to join. It doesn’t appear to exist, at least according to a Google search. But there was a French playwright and actor named Jean-Baptiste Poquelin, though he was better known by his stage name, Molière.
But the biggest of the wink and nods is for movie buffs familiar with the 1974 Jack Nicholson and Faye Dunaway movie Chinatown, directed by Roman Polansky. The plot of An Honest Man is an homage to this great noir classic and the book echoes many of its plot components. The book’s title derives from a conversation Nicholson had in the barbershop scene Chinatown.
But Chinatown is all Los Angeles in 1937 and the story revolves around water rights, incest, and murder. An Honest Living is New York through and through from the scenes that our detective spies from the G Train and the window of his brownstone or the streets he walks littered with trash and 24-hour diners. It’s Manhattan before the financial meltdown—urban, somewhat gritty, and unhomogenized.
Murphy has taken that time period and our knowledge of the looming crisis and created a compelling mystery set in a world of jaded hopes and ambiguous relationships. There’s the overwhelming sense that the other shoe will drop and when it does, it will come down heavy on our somewhat hapless narrator.
Noir land is always smoke and mirrors, and for those who like entering that world, be assured that Murphy is already at work on his next book.
This review previously appeared in the New York Journal of Books.
Far from the marshland where her family grew up and that claimed her father’s life, Loni Mae Murrow has found a quiet niche where she creates intricate life-like drawings of birds for the Smithsonian. It’s a rare talent and a job that Murrow, who started drawing at an early age, loves. But there are undercurrents in her job and life starting with a new administrator talking of budget cuts and disdaining Murrow’s need to return home to deal with her aging mother. Making it all more complicated is that she also is confronted with her brother and his controlling, avaricious wife both of whom seem more intent on cashing in on what little money there is in their mother’s portfolio than in helping her. Murrow has just a short time to take care of family business and to sort out messy family entanglements. If she doesn’t return in time, she’ll no longer have a job.
But the pull of her mother’s needs, a compelling job offer from a good friend, veiled hints at mysteries unsolved along with her realization that her father’s death may be less straightforward than it seemed at the time jarringly jeopardize the peace and tranquility that Murrow has achieved. She finds herself deeper and deeper into the place of her youth and the marshes, both of which she thought—hopefully–she had left behind for good.
Author Virginia Hartman convincing portrays the beauty of the marshes, creating an atmosphere of serene beauty but also one full of surprises and ultimately danger in The Marsh Queen (Simon & Schuster). She also conveys how easily Murrow falls into the patterns of her father who knew the waterways so well he could navigate the countless channels and inlets without a map. Hartman’s love of this landscape, full of unexpected wonders, is inherent in her writing.
“Early morning steam rises from the water,” Hartman writes about one of Murrow’s forays into the marshland. “I paddle to a different part of the swamp today, where the Cypress trees grow, as my dad used to say, ‘keepin’ their feet in the water.’ The canopy is high, like a cathedral, and I glide through the landscape of light and shadow. Ferns cascade from the trunks and pink lichen like measle spots and the Cypress knees stick up from beneath the surface like the hats of submerged gnomes.”
This enchantment of the waterways with all its many unexpected scenes of flora and fauna is something Murrow finds she shares with Adlai, the seemingly gruff proprietor of the canoe shop where she rents her canoe and paddles when she goes in search of such birds to draw as the purple gallinule. Her mother had married down so to speak when she chose Murrow’s father. It is a choice that Murrow ultimately must make as well—to leave a dream job of working at one of the most prestigious museums in the country and life in a bustling cosmopolitan city to return to the backwaters of home.
But first she must follow, however unwillingly, all the clues that keep presenting themselves regarding the past. It’s a matter of connecting the dots to find out what really did happen to here father all those years ago. And if she doesn’t accomplish that soon enough, then there’s more at risk for Murrow than just losing her job. It may mean losing her life.
This review originally appeared in New York Journal of Books.
About the Author
Virginia Hartman has an MFA in creative writing from American University and is on the faculty at George Washington University. Her stories have been shortlisted for the New Letters Awards and the Dana Awards. The Marsh Queen is her first novel.
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With a step-mother who can’t help but hear and see ghosts no matter how many Alba songs she sings, no longer Nola Trenholm ends up buying a haunted home in New Orleans in Karen White’s latest book.
White, who has written more 30 books, including the very successful haunted home Tradd Street Series, now has moved her spooky action from Charleston to New Orleans as we follow Nola Trenholm, who buys a Creole cottage that needs extensive work only to discover that some of the previous occupants are still living there — if living is the right term to apply to people who are dead.
But you can’t say Nola wasn’t warned. Her stepmother, who hears and sees ghosts like the rest of us see cars on the streets, tours the house with her before she signs the paperwork and suggests that it would be better to burn it down than then to move in.
As if that wasn’t enough of a warning, while they’re looking around there’s a sudden scream and an explosion of antique blue bottles — a seemingly spontaneous event with no possible explanation as to why it happened.
It turns out that the home was the scene of an unsolved murder, and to help her figure out what to do, Nola has to rely upon Beau Ryan, who can communicate with the spirits, something Nola unfortunately is unable to do. But Beau’s past is mysterious. His sister and parents disappeared during Hurricane Katrina and he is also connected to the murder that took place in Nola’s new home.
Nola has her own issues as well. A recent college graduate, like her parents she has addiction issues. Her father, Jack Trenholm, a best-selling novelist, has been able to overcome his demons, but her mother, a drug addict, didn’t.
White, who says she definitely believes in ghosts, has never seen one herself.
“And I’ve definitely put myself in places that are haunted,” she said.
Her grown son has and he is definitely not happy about it.
Is it hard to write about ghosts if you’ve never seen one, I ask White when we chat on the phone?
It turns out it is, since White never plans or plots her books, so what the characters say and do, whether they’re still alive or not, just flows as she writes.
Her human characters can be difficult and so can the spirits.
”I don’t use the ghosts to be scary, I use them as characters — it’s like having a neighbor,” she said. “I love how they tie in the past and the present and I love how they can be useful. Don’t we all wish we could ask for help from the other side?”
But, of course, she continues, ghosts can’t always express themselves any better than their human counterparts.
This article originally appeared in the Northwest Indiana Times.
Michaela Lambert has a career I’ve never heard of and indeed doesn’t quite exist yet (but someone should start doing it) as a digital archaeologist for a new start-up run by her boyfriend. No make that ex-boyfriend. Well, like everything in Rachel Howzell Hall’s These Toxic Things, a wonderfully intricate mystery about the secrets that we keep and those that others keep from us, the relationship is complicated.
But Mickie, as she’s nicknamed, loves her job. She’s a thoroughly modern woman but she loves the curios of the past. For Memory Bank she catalogues items that her clients deem most valuable in highlighting important aspects of their life. Unfortunately, Nadia Denham, her new client and owner of Beautiful Things Curiosities Shoppe, a fascinating store in a somewhat seedy strip mall, is found dead. Denham has a plastic bag over her head and left a suicide note but the death looks suspicious none the less. And there is of course, the shark-like developer who wants to buy the land and bulldoze it for his own upscale development.
Since the dead woman already purchased the Mega-Memory Package, Mickie decides to go ahead and create the memory book and suddenly finds herself in a sinister, shadowy world. In ways, Mickie is sheltered, she lives in a tree-lined Los Angeles neighborhood behind the pretty home owned by her loving parents. Her uncle, a LAPD cop is equally protective and dedicated to her well-being. She graduated from USC, over-borrows her mother’s expensive and beautiful clothes and the two giggle over her stories of boyfriends while chowing down tacos. And yet even in this cocooned bubble, there are secrets as well.
Once entering the world of Denham’s beautiful things, she makes good friends at the nearby diner but she’s also suddenly receiving threatening notes and feels as those someone who knows where she lives.
Hall, a self-described control freak and thoroughly plots out her numerous novels (she has one already written coming out next summer and another next year), draws upon her own life and experiences, the stories she hears from friends and co-workers, and what she reads including newspapers, blogs, and social media.
. She and her college bound daughter share clothes, munch on popcorn while gossipping, and she has some secrets she will in the future share with her—though none, I’m sure, are as stunning as the one Mickie will discover about her family.
“Writers are like magpies—we grab shiny things and take them with us,” Hall says and of course that’s true, everything is material for writers. Hall is able to keep track of her complex novels because she is all about organization and has a daily to-do list.
“If I do something that’s not on the list, I add it later so I can cross it off,” she says. “We all have our rituals.”
These Toxic Things is one of an emerging mystery subgenre—that of feisty, independent, and intelligent Black woman who while bravely finding her way in the world also has her vulnerabilities.
“It’s a great awakening of Black female mystery writers, who burst out about three years ago,” says Hall.
It’s a very welcome one as well.
CrimeReads: Three L.A. True Crime Stories That Went From Reality to Books to Films. https://crimereads.com/three-l-a-true-crime-stories-that-went-from-reality-to-books-to-films/